Dead Man Down is a rare film in Hollywood, one that puts character first and action/thrills second, and both fronts are mostly successful. The chemistry between Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace is palpable and although it was “one the nose”, the lost soul’s aspect to their characters is a nice touch. The DVD released by Sony has good audio and video transfers while the solo feature isn’t worth the time.
Genre(s): Drama, Suspense
Sony | R – 117 min. – $26.99 | July 9, 2013
Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev
Writer(s): J.H. Wyman
Cast: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Dominic Cooper, Terrence Howard
Theatrical Release Date: March 8, 2013
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
THE MOVIE – 4.0/5
Dead Man Down is the latest crime-thriller-noir from director Niels Arden Oplev best known for helming the Danish adaptation of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. While the film has its share of problems, mainly with some plot elements, it actually was better than I expected and lived up to the potential presented in the trailers.
The story follows Victor (COLIN FARRELL), a goon for mobster Alphonse (TERRENCE HOWARD) who is as good with guns as he is with revenge. This isn’t a big spoiler, but Victor has it out for Alphonse who had Victor’s wife and daughter killed as they were set to testify against the mob guy but Victor (his alias) manages to survive the attempted murder. Over the past few months Victor has been sending taunting messages to Alphonse and when the movie opened, had killed one of his men and left the corpse in the freezer at his home.
Beatrice (NOOMI RAPACE) is a young woman severely scarred after a drunk driver crashed into her but that driver barely served time and is out of jail. She lives across the way from Victor and the pair have exchanged glances and hand waves but, thanks to intervention from her overbearing mother, manages to meet in person. However, there’s more than meets the eye as its not mere mutual attraction that brings them together: Beatrice has incriminating video of Victor murdering that Alphonse’s goon but rather than turning him in to the police, she instead blackmails him to kill the man who scarred her. Having little choice in the matter, and unable to kill her as she’s so emotionally damaged she doesn’t care if she lives or dies, agrees to do the deed.
First things first, though, Victor continues on his path of vengeance on Alphonse playing games and planning his ultimate revenge in a big finale. However, something unexpected happens as Victor and Beatrice spend more time together and they see in one another their internal pain. While it is a bit “on the nose”, one of the fonder moments is the lost soul’s element each character has and how they fill the void in one another.
Dead Man Down is actually one of the better movies to come out of 2013. No, it’s not amazing nor is it terrible unpredictable, although screenwriter J.H. Wyman (“Fringe”) manages to throw a wrench in to at least keep things interesting. The film especially works balancing good thrills with excellent character development led by Colin Farrell in one of his better performances and, particularly, Noomi Rapace continuing her budding career since her stellar worldwide grand entrance in the Danish Dragon Tattoo trilogy followed by the Sherlock Holmes sequel and Prometheus. Together with Farrell, the pair really play it with wonderfully understated drama.
The supporting cast also gives solid performances. Terrence Howard works as a tough mob boss psychologically torn apart by Victor’s antics to the point I kind of wish to see a prequel and how his character fell to that point. Dominic Cooper as Victor’s best friend and fellow mob goon wanting to move up in the organization has some good scenes although with so much going on, there are only so many scenes for his character to evolve, but during the finale, he is effective enough.
Effectively helmed by Niels Arden Oplev, Dead Man Down offers a suspenseful yarn but doesn’t set the emotional parts aside and instead gives the audience a reason we want to see Victor and Beatrice succeed. Oplev relies on the dramatic elements instead of one action set piece to the next with a sprinkling of character development thrown in for good measure.
In the end, there’s no doubt this isn’t a perfect film by any stretch but it managed to keep my attention and actually care about the characters. Farrell and Rapace share some great on-screen chemistry and even if he is forgettable as the villain, Terrence Howard does provide some weight for an otherwise thankless role.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.0/5
Staging the Action: The Firefights (5:44; HD) — Looks at the featured action sequences.
Previews – Olympus Has Fallen, The Last Exorcism Part II, Evil Dead, The Call
VIDEO – 4.0/5
Dead Man Down arrives on DVD presented in its original 2.40 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. Although some scenes has noticeable pixilation, the picture actually doesn’t look half bad. The color array appears to be well balanced and there aren’t any obvious artifacting. For DVD it’s a good transfer.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is quite effective and balances between the quieter more dialogue-driven moments and the action-packed scenes which really show off and will impress your neighbors if you don’t have proper insulation.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, Dead Man Down is a rare film in Hollywood, one that puts character first and action/thrills second, and both fronts are mostly successful. The chemistry between Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace is palpable and although it was “one the nose”, the lost soul’s aspect to their characters is a nice touch. The DVD released by Sony has good audio and video transfers while the solo feature isn’t worth the time.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman