Review: Dead Man Down (2013)

Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace star in gritty crime thriller Dead Man Down by Niels Arden Oplev, director of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Who would have thought that Colin Farrell would ever become a poor man’s Jason Statham? Well that’s exactly the case in Dead Man Down, a crime-thriller that marks Niels Arden Oplev (the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)’s American directorial debut. Not even this or the presence of some good actors like Noomi Rapace and Terence Howard can shake the fact a wrestling company was behind its production.

Victor (Farrell) works for New York crime lord Alphonse Hoyt (Howard) but has a secret motive – payback. His family was killed on Alphonse’s orders and, having changed his identity, he has somehow managed to infiltrate the mob to put into place a strategy for revenge. His neighbour Beatrice (Rapace), disfigured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, becomes involved by blackmailing him into killing the driver responsible for her accident.

With this complication, his plan is further jeopardized when lowly gang member and friend, Darcy (Dominic Cooper), starts to investigate cryptic threatening letters Victor sends to Alphonse. But even when the truth is uncovered, he will still stop at nothing to gain retribution for his family.

Despite how good you think this could be, there is a strange vibe about the film. On one hand it presents itself as a hard-boiled, neo-noir but on the other it feels as though it’s a run-of-the-mill straight-to-DVD film. While it’s at least not a mindless actioner, it doesn’t help that the ending is basically something out of a Statham film where it’s one-man versus an entire gang in a far-fetched bloodbath.

It starts off well enough with a tense showdown, but as it moves along at a relatively slow pace there are little things which bug; Beatrice is meant to be disfigured yet her barely visible facial injuries consist of a few scars that seem to warrant kids calling her a monster. Then there’s continued reference to Victor originally being ‘killed’ along with his wife but no explanation how he survived to gain access to Alphonse’s mafia (plus the issue that nobody recognises him even though he’s just shaved off a beard).

If there’s any saving grace, the performances warrant a mention. Farrell is convincing as the withdrawn and sombre Hungarian, playing well off Rapace’s troubled female, and Howard and Isabelle Huppert (as Beatrice’s mother) add a little class to proceedings. Oplev provides some gritty directing to inject a bit of tension to the weak screenplay, but in all honesty, it’s a middling thriller at best.

Dead Man Down benefits from good performances and an intriguing premise, but is let down by an un-engaging plot and rather flat dialogue. If there was a bit more depth to the story and characters there might have been something worth recommending, but ultimately it is just The Punisher without its comic book roots.

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