Review: Dead Man Down … and easily forgotten
Director Niels Arden Oplev, famous for the extremely popular and critically acclaimed Swedish film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the original), has his American film debut with Dead Man Down, a film that starts out as a taunt Hitchcockian style thriller but disintegrates into a contrived mess of loose ends and preposterous plot points.
There are a lot of details that cannot be delved into for this film without giving away some of its better moments (which are few), but in a nutshell Dead Man Down is about vigilante revenge and restitution as dealt out by a secretive gangster against his own criminal bosses — with a quirky and scarred beautician thrown into the mix just to make things interesting.
Victor (Colin Farrell) is a sullen stooge who works with a group of thugs who are into both drug distribution and shady real estate dealings with Haitian and Albanian gangsters (… always with the Albanians — the mobsters du jour of the new millennium.)
The story begins with a gangster shoot-out set to reggae music where Victor saves the life of his crime boss, Alphonse (Terrence Howard). The mobsters are all paranoid as someone is killing them and taking pleasure in messing with their heads, send them clues regarding their imminent demise.
Meanwhile, Victor is infatuated with a beautiful but scarred neighbor who lives across from his high-rise apartment and the two often admire each other from a distance until the woman, Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) finally asks him to call on her.
The two strangers meet for dinner and we find that neither person is quite who we believed them to be. The plot thickens and to this point I was very much enjoying the film – then it unravels into La-La Land. The remainder of the film has characters performing nonsensical actions that result in even more illogical outcomes and by the end of the movie it turns into unintentional farcical comedy.
I had real high hopes for this movie, not only because Niels Arden Oplev is a stylish creator of smooth and thrilling crime drama, but also because he is directing the upcoming Under the Dome mini-series (based on the awesome Stephen King novel) that I have huge expectations for. After seeing Dead Man Down, I’m afraid I need to dial back my enthusiasm, because this current film is a clustermug.
Colin Farrell, who was great in the recent Seven Psychopaths, plays Victor with nearly no emotion, which is something he is really good at, although I don’t think it requires much talent. Noomi Rapace still manages to be extremely sexy, even with a scarred up face, and she does a great job as Beatrice. Terrence Howard turns in a nice performance as the befuddled crime boss and in fact the acting overall in this movie is pretty darn good and includes Dominic Cooper (who was Howard Stark in Captain America), F. Murray Abraham and Armand Assante, who plays a pretty intimidating gangster.
The blame for this fiasco can only be laid on the writer (J.H. Wyman) and director in that they seemed to be lost in their own story, trying too hard to create twists without having the ability to untangle their own puzzle and then just abandoning it altogether. Dead Man Down is high on style but lacking in common sense to the point of absurdity. Grade: 4/10
Photos © 2013 FilmDistrict