Dead Man Down

Directed By: Niels Arden Oplev

Starring: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper, Isabelle Huppert, and Wade Barrett

Noomi Rapace's career has been on the rise for quite some time now, and it's well-deserved given her raw acting talent.  In the last couple of years, the original girl with the dragon tattoo has gotten some major exposure on the big screen.  Rapace had a supporting role alongside Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  She had a starring role amongst a star-studded cast in Ridley Scott's Prometheus last year.  All in all, things are really going Rapace's way these days.  Now, she's reteaming with Niels Arden Oplev, her director from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and headlining the crime thriller Dead Man Down.

Alphonse Hoyt (Terrence Howard) is a crime boss who has wronged many in his time.  Unfortunately for him, he may be finally getting his comeuppance.  He's been receiving a series of death threats in the mail and is concerned for his life.  Paul, one of Alphonse's men, met a cold end to his life investigating the threats, and Alphonse finds his late crew member in his freezer at home.  An outraged Alphonse goes to his office to find he has another letter from the anonymous guy making threats on his life.  It reads "719.  Now you realize...”  Bent on figuring out who this man is, Alphonse goes on a wild goose chase to see a Jamaican drug dealer whom he thinks is doing all of this.  Things get bloody quickly, and quite a few Jamaicans kick the bucket.  Meanwhile, Alphonse's subordinate Darcy (Dominic Cooper) begins his own investigation to retrace Paul’s steps and figure out whatever his friend had learned.  It’s probably what got him killed.

Victor (Colin Farrell), one of Alphonse's men, is rather quiet during all of this chaos.  He does his job and then goes home to his apartment.  Aside from his friendship with Darcy, this criminal's social life is nonexistent although he does have a neighbor across the street who waves at him from her apartment on occasion.  Beatrice (Rapace), the girl across the street, makes a move, and Victor takes her out on a date one night.  Things don't go quite the way he planned though.  Beatrice, a woman scarred for life after being hit in a DUI accident, has been watching Victor.  She's seen and recorded footage of him killing a man, and now she wants him to kill the man who disfigured her.  While her attempt to blackmail him is successful, Beatrice doesn't know what kind of man Victor is or what he's really capable of doing.

I'm not going to suggest that Dead Man Down is some great crime thriller because it's not.  In fact, the movie has plenty of flaws, particularly in the writing department.  What I will say, however, is that Dead Man Down is an entertaining B movie with solid performances from its cast.  This brutal revenge flick offers some interesting characters and a rather twisted tale of romance.

Screenwriter J.H. Wyman just doesn't get the job done in Dead Man Down.  There's a lot that's not written into the story that makes the film feel disjointed.  Many parts of the story lack context.  In better written movies, omitting certain developments can work to the film's advantage because viewers aren't being spoon-fed and are left to make reasonable assumptions.  When this happens, it's an artistic decision.  In the case of Dead Man Down though, this doesn't work.  It doesn't work because Wyman has written a story with some random plot developments, and there's a big difference between a conscious artistic decision and randomness.  The best example of this is the introduction of Beatrice's blackmail of Victor which comes totally out of left field.  These two are going out on a seemingly innocent date that's suddenly rocked by scandal.  There should have been something in the film beforehand that would have added context to this scene.  Like many other major plot developments in the film, this is just too tangential because Wyman doesn’t establish the proper context.

Despite the mediocre screenplay, the cast is on top of their game in Dead Man Down.  Noomi Rapace is the best amongst this group of actors.  As the tormented "monster" Beatrice, she gives a layered performance and steals the spotlight whenever she's on camera.  With last year's Total Recall now a distant memory in moviegoers' minds, Colin Farrell steps up his game as Victor.  Farrell really portrays this lonely, vengeful Hungarian quite well.  As crime boss Alphonse Hoyt, Terrence Howard really impressed me.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but Howard is actually doing a little acting again.  He brings some real intensity to the big screen as Alphonse, this poised, calculating antagonist.  Fresh from Amour, French actress Isabelle Huppert brings a healthy dose of comic relief to the film as Beatrice's wacky mother Maman Louzon. 

For a revenge flick, Dead Man Down has a healthy dose of romance.  Admittedly, it's a rather twisted one given the circumstances.  Both Beatrice and Victor are wounded lovers in different ways.  Because their love lives always come second to their fantasies of revenge, there's a romantic undercurrent throughout the movie that actually balances the film out quite nicely.  When their characters aren't pondering murder, Noomi Rapace and Colin Farrell really have some great chemistry on screen.  It shows every time they're together.

Dead Man Down is a film with its problems, but it's still entertaining on the whole.  This is a case when the performances from the cast carry the film, not the story.  Obviously, that’s a big problem.  If Wyman had done some better writing, the film would be getting a better rating.  As it stands, Dead Man Down gets a 0.06% rating.  Have a few rounds of beer with this one.