Directed by: Niels Arden Opley
Written by: J. H. Wyman
Cast: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Dominic Cooper, and Terrence Howard
I brought this up in my vengeance column this week but the revenge genre is notorious for being hit or miss. Usually because it’s very easy to predict how the entire film is going to play out. For that matter, the revenge genre is quite similar to romance films. Boy meets girl, girl likes boy, boy pisses off girl, and then wins her back. Then girl kills boy for cheating on her. Sweet revenge! Anyways, my point is films revolving around a theme of vengeance are typically predictable. However, Dead Man Down is a strange addition to the mix. This is a tough film to talk about without revealing specifics, so assume there are SPOILERS from this point forward.
One of the best surprises about Dead Man Down is the fact that the trailer is incredibly misleading. It’s very rare for a film’s marketing to not give away the entire film these days. Almost every aspect of the trailer had a different scenario than what was depicted in the advertising. So I was quite pleased walking into the film and not having any clue what to expect. Major kudos to the studio for accomplishing this.
The story involves Victor (Colin Farrell), who is a rising soldier in the crime world for mobster Alphonse (Howard). Victor is one of the best men Alphonse has and is incredibly devoted to the crew. However, underneath Victor’s soul is a dark truth which begins to unravel. Victor has been working his way up the food chain to take down Alphonse. While executing his grand plan for revenge, he realizes he is being watched by Beatrice (Rapace) from a different building. Fragile as she seems, Beatrice also has a similar need for vengeance. She threatens to expose Victor to the authorities if he does not help her seek justice. The two form an unlikely friendship which brings an exploding chaos within their worlds.
One of the most terrific highlights of Dead Man Down is the performances from the film’s leads. Colin Farrell delivers a less is more approach to his role, which is almost in the same vein as Ryan Gosling in Drive. It’s one of those performances where the facial expressions handle all the talking. Noami Rapace is incredible as usual. She plays an emotionally damaged woman down to the key. My only complaint with her character in the movie does a terrible job of convincing me that her scars make her ugly. Kids throw rocks at her and call her “Monster”, when in actuality, she still looks pretty damn good. Plus, the scars on her face are not that bad. Terrence Howard doesn’t exactly break any new ground. Not that it’s a bad thing because he basically knows what persona to play best, and he executes the role just fine.
The score, which was composed by Jacob Groth is quite excellent. It delivers such a strange atmosphere to the movie. I’ve never heard a score create a sense of anxiety while filling my heart with emotion all at once. At least not for a long time. If anything, it damn near elevates the dry material to greatness as the story unfolds. The film definitely has major issues, however, I do not believe it’s due to the direction of Niels Arden Opley, who directed the French version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This is one of the cases where a crappy screenplay is somewhat improved by a director. Sadly, Opley could only do so much with what he is given.
The largest downfall in Dead Man Down is the lackluster finale. which is completely generic in comparison to the rest of the film. The screenplay sets up so may great possibilities, only not to fully realize them by the time it reaches the finish. It is an ending undeserving to the story, and to its audience. There was a lot of potential to take the conclusion to a fresher place and it did not happen. Bottom line, J. H. Wyman’s script needed another draft before fast-tracking into production.
Dead Man Down is not a terrible film by any means. In fact, I would argue that there is plenty of reasons to watch it, just not in a theater. If you like revenge films regardless of their predictability, then you will enjoy this one also. Everyone else will be left wanting by its lazy conclusion. My recommendation to those people is to wait for it on DVD/Blu-Ray.