Dead Man Down

Dead Man Down


Reviewed by: David Graham

A DTV-standard story is inexplicably boosted by a too-talented-for-this-tripe cast in Neils Arden Oplev’s cinematic follow-up to his breakout Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Both films have featured trashy stories that are reminiscent of TV crime dramas, and indeed the director’s visual style has obviously been developed along those lines having amassed so much experience on series such as Unforgettable. This English-language effort boasts higher-calibre action and a more cinematic visual sense than his previous work, but remains bogged down in ridiculous cliché and convolution.

Alphonse Hoyt’s criminal empire begins to crumble around him with the discovery of a cohort’s body in his freezer. Someone is out to get him, and intends to hit him where it hurts on the way. Hoyt’s right hand man Victor may be the only person he can trust, having saved his life in a rival gang gunfight, while Victor’s best friend Darcy is determined to find the mystery enemy in order to move up Hoyt’s food-chain. Into this web of betrayal steps damaged soul Beatrice, whose tentative romance with Victor ensnares him into another quest for vengeance that threatens to consume them both.

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Opening with a tense interrogation sequence that ends in all guns blazing shoot’em- up violence, Oplev’s ensemble immediately enlivens what would otherwise be sub-Wire melodrama. Terrence Howard makes a brilliantly louche mobster, thinly veiled threat oozing from his pores, with Dominic Cooper almost unrecognisable as his bad boy underling trying to make good in all the wrong ways. Elsewhere, Isabelle Huppert and F Murray Abraham appear randomly in thankless parental support roles, adding an intergenerational touch of class despite having next to nothing to do.

Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace form the film’s core, dancing around each other in a brittle display of wounded pride, their similarities bringing them closer together while the danger they may be putting each other in forces them to keep their distance. Both actors are fundamentally miscast but still do well with some poorly written material, their charisma and intensity keeping the plot’s far-fetched stretches anchored in recognisable emotion.

The problem is that the characters’ motivations don’t make a whole lot of sense: when they’re all aware of how deadly and dangerous each other is, it becomes impossible to swallow them not poppin’ the proverbial caps in asses left, right and centre. This of course is just what happens at the end, when Dead Man Down morphs unrepentantly into an Arnie flick, Farrell storming into gangsta’s paradise on a solo mission that’s just too stupid for words. Dumb Men Dead would be a more apt title.

The various twists and turns fail to prevent everything from becoming predictable, and the visceral nature of the insane climax only contradicts the more human elements the story has struggled with up to that point. The likes of The Town did this nonsense way better; there’s only so far a quality cast can take such sub-par schlock. It won’t harm anyone’s career and fans of its stars will find it reasonably watchable, but on this evidence perhaps Oplev should stick to TV after all.

Reviewed on: 03 May 2013
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Dead Man Down packshot
A woman seeking revenge seduces a crime lord's lieutenant.
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Director: Niels Arden Oplev

Writer: JH Wyman

Starring: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper, Isabelle Huppert, Luis Da Silva Jr

Year: 2013

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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