Victor (Colin Farrell) is the trusted right-hand man of one of New York's more unscrupulous land developers, Alphonse (Terrence Howard). Alphonse is receiving threats from an anonymous party and he will spare no expense in dispatching that threat.
When Victor isn't scouring for gangsters, he eats microwaveable noodles at home by himself. His neighbor Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) waves to him, but that is the extent of his communication with the world outside of work. His loss has severed him from life.
Beatrice is no stranger to tragedy herself, an accident has left her physically scarred permanently. Possessing a window into Victor's life, she finds out information that could make his life his infinitely worse, and that may just be her ticket to satisfying the need for revenge in her heart. Her ultimatum comes at a terrible time for Victor, who has his own scores to settle.
Forced into dealing with each other, soon they find kindred spirits in each other. Beatrice and Victor are the physical manifestations of wounded prey, they have been injured, but not killed, and there is nothing more dangerous than wounded prey.
Niels Arden Oplev proved he had the sensibilities of a revenge thriller director with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but his lead actor and the pulp material failed him ultimately. So for his English language debut, Oplev took his best asset (Rapace) and paired her with one of the more underrated actors working today.
Colin Farrell is past the stage of his career where he is forced into the typical Hollywood leading man mold, but he has found his niche with morally grey characters in more independent features.
Noomi Rapace takes what could largely be a thankless role in another film and offers a layered woman instead of the helpless victim portrayed so often in revenge flicks.
Dead Man Down works for the most part, which makes the decidely silly turn during its last act particularly hard to stomach. Thugs walking around with automatic weapons in broad daylight, plowing vehicles through buildings, and odd character motivations all rear their ugly heads when a film should be flourishing in its last stretch. All of these things invalidate everything that came before.
That is a shame given Oplev had, up until that point, crafted an intimate portrayal of grief and the wrecking ball effect revenge takes on a life. Even with the flair Oplev employs during chase sequences and shoot-outs, the high is never recaptured.