Release date: 23rd May 2013
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Cast: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper, Isabelle Huppert
Review by Peter Gray
Taking a tired and tested revenge story and giving it the “art-house action” treatment, ‘Dead Man Down’ manages to overcome its conventionality thanks in large part to Swedish director Niels Arden Oplev (the original ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’) and his leads Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace. It’s been a hard road lately for Farrell who hasn’t seemed to of found the right connection with his last few projects, and though this isn’t going to drastically alter his course it’s at least a solid tough-guy action project, something he has always excelled at portraying.
Here he plays Victor, an archetypal killer with a heart of gold, who is one of the top henchmen to gangster kingpin Alphonse Hoyt (Terrence Howard). Quick with his trigger finger and smart enough to know when to keep quiet, Victor lives an unobtrusive existence until neighbour across the way Beatrice (Rapace) witnesses him committing a crime and blackmails him into killing the man responsible for disfiguring her in a car accident. I say disfigure, but really it’s more of just a scarring around her eye that whilst noticeable is hardly worthy of the verbal abuse her character suffers at the hands of the local neighbourhood children; a few scenes showing her being called a ‘monster’ appear more emotionally manipulative then genuine as Rapace is still a striking enough woman that you’d hardly be taken aback by her supposed disfigurement.
Character flaws aside, ‘Dead Man Down’ owes its success to Farrell and Rapace as you take them away and you have just an action movie, with them it manages to be a little bit more. The romance angle between the two is thankfully not too forced, and it allows Isabelle Huppert as Rapace’s mother to lighten up the film playing subtle matchmaker, though ultimately the disjointed story is what undoes the film. Farrell’s “secret” is hardly a game changer, and the script from J.H. Wyman (the television series ‘Fringe’) is punctured with vast breaks of sense to the point where it becomes irritable to viewer (no cops in a shoot-out? Of course!) To Oplev’s credit though Farrell and Rapace keep things moving and the slick cinematography from Paul Simon (‘Man on Fire’) give the film a sleek enough edge to allow forgiveness.
‘Dead Man Down’ is far from being a great action film, and it isn’t a cinema necessity, but there’s enough about it that warrants a recommendation. It’s not going to be for everyone, but if you can handle your action films with that distinct hint of European flavour, you’re in good company.
My rating 3/5 (Simple but satisfying)