Rating: R (violence, language, and a scene of sexuality)
Length: 110 minutes
Release Date: March 8, 2013
Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev
Stars: 3 out of 5
In “Dead Man Down,” Colin Farrell continues to show his bankability as an action star by playing Victor, an enforcer for mob boss Alphonse (Terrance Howard). He looks like an ordinary man, but one who is capable of doing some very bad things. He is neighbors with Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), a woman who is physically and emotionally damaged from a horrific car accident at the hands of a drunk driver several years before. Despite the fact that it literally hurts for her to smile because of her facial scars from the accident, she manages to find the soft underbelly of Victor, who agrees to go out on a date with her.
Victor thinks this will be a fairly standard first date with small talk and perhaps a bit of awkwardness at dinner. He is sorely mistaken, as Beatrice reveals the real reason why she asked him out while he is driving her home. She has a video recording of Victor killing someone for work, which she uses to blackmail him into killing the drunk driver who plowed into her and caused all her facial disfiguration. He served just three weeks in prison for his crime, a fact that Beatrice has never been able to get over, especially as she went through one painful surgery after another after the accident. Victor surprises her by saying that he would have taken the job, even if she didn’t have the video to blackmail him.
He tasks her with finding out more information about the target; his whereabouts and his employer. Beatrice goes about this task with a renewed sense of purpose as her lust for revenge begins to boil. A huge problem arises when she and Victor stumble upon some very sensitive information that Alphonse would rather not have the world know about. It puts her in the mob boss’ crosshairs, a position she was not ready for at all. After Alphonse marks both Victor and Beatrice for death, they have to go on the run and figure out a way to stay one step ahead until they can kill him.
“Dead Man Down” brings Noomi Rapace and her “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” director Niels Arden Oplev back together again, only this time in the United States instead of Sweden. A US version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” was made, although the original Swedish version is still very popular among American moviegoers, which is why “Dead Man Down” is creating such interest.
Rapace turns in an admirable performance as a woman who is as disfigured emotionally as her face is physically. The character of Beatrice is not completely unlike that of Lisbeth Salander-created by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. They both had horrible things done to them, which cause them to go on a mission of revenge. In “Dead Man Down,” Beatrice suffers facial scars and mangled cheekbones as a result of her inflicted trauma. Still, Rapace manages to show the pain and mental anguish that Beatrice goes through on a daily basis, even through the thick prosthetics.
Oplev brings real depth to the characters, ensuring that the film is more narrative-driven than action-driven. Even though the characters are at the heart of the film, that doesn’t mean that Oplev skimps on the action. In fact, the third and final act of the film is filled with chases, shootings, and other heart-pumping action film favorites. Once Victor and Beatrice find out just what kind of predicament they are in, the action is taken to the next level, with Victor being so brassy as to conduct assassinations in broad daylight, in front of hundreds of potential witnesses. He doesn’t have much of a choice if he wants to survive, so he carries out these killings with the coldness of a trained assassin, though he always seems to be just a little pained when doing it.
“Dead Man Down” is the rare action thriller that slowly builds up to a satisfying conclusion, rather than skipping straight to fight or chase scenes. The slow burn of the plot is no surprise given that the script was written by J.H. Wyman, who spent several years on the slow-building television show “Fringe.” Wyman infuses the plot with just enough character development and investigative prowess to allow the audience to really connect with what is going on. The audience cares about the ending and has a vested interest in who gets to live and who dies.