Dead Man Down
Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev
Starring: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Dominic Cooper, Terrence Howard, Isabelle Huppert
Written by: Joel Howard Wyman
A watched pot never boils.
Funnily enough, neither does your average revenge thriller. Which pretty much is the summation of this film - while some of the cast put in good performances, the plot leaves a lot to be desired. Similar to other action stars, Farrell has that stoic and smouldering handsome look; which is why it hurts to see him in another in a long line of action movies that he should have passed on. Farrell perhaps isn't the greatest action star, but he's no slouch either. When the studios let him play something other than the typical action figure that stands and stares just above the camera either to the left or the right, looking tense and rigid - he actually delivers a fine performance. In "Seven Psychopaths" (for which we reviewed the DVD), Farrell was one of the best parts of the whole film. Similarly, in "In Bruges", as one half of a pair of hapless assassins, Farrell executes the role to a tee. His whole tense but slightly offbeat persona fits those type of films perfectly; he's like your typical action star, but not quite. Which is why it hurts to see him in such a role. Oplev, who directed the original Swedish adaptation of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", is nowhere close to his previous form. That film had panache, focus and an atmosphere that pervaded everything it touched; this on the other hand, tries to hard to be a serious thriller and ends up falling flat, repeatedly.
The film is pretty much a stereotype of your uninspired revenge thriller; a relatively quiet engineer, (Farrell) works as a part time hit man/enforcer for boss Alphonse Hoyt (Terence Howard) who has been receiving inciting messages and threats. Someone who he has hurt in the past has come back to exact revenge on him and is killing his men one by one. Farrell's "Victor" has infiltrated the gang as becomes apparent early on and the conspiracy (and the plot) starts to unravel. "Victor" is seen by his intently watching neighbour and then blackmailed into carrying out a hit by "Beatrice" (Noomi Rapace). The hit obviously involves Beatrice's own sordid past; the drunk driver who left her 'disfigured' (a phrase that Hollywood overuses and never really delivers on). However, the story is let down by not allowing the audience in; there's not much room to relate to the characters, the pace is terrible and the film just never really gets started. The plot itself becomes rather implausible in places and it is easy to left feeling bored or simply out of place. Beatrice is posited by the story as two very different things; one being a manipulative woman out for total revenge, and the other being the love interest and humanisation tool of Victor - the problem is that the two are never really reconciled. The problem with both of the leads in the half pushed love story is that both of them are meant to have a troubled past - it's the whole reason that Victor joins up with Hoyt's gang. But to play like there's a heavy underhanded complex interior, you need someone like Gosling and his "Luke" from "The Place Beyond The Pines", with everything bubbling just beneath the surface. Instead, we have Farrell looking deadpan for what amounts to half the film; he seemed less engaged with the film then the audience were at points.
The cinematography plays it safe with your standard thriller shots from rooftop angles, and from quick pans - and the film stays in the noir and very dark/earthy tones. The soundtrack is nothing special; you wouldn't be able to pick it out from a line up of Hollywood's most overused action accompaniments.
The performers themselves, somewhat unintentionally and through some 'intelligent' casting, never really settle into something they are comfortable with. Noomi, a Swedish actress, plays a French woman living in America, while Farrell, a very astute Irish man, plays a Hungarian with an American accent. Not to mention that the chemistry between them is so lacklustre that any potential romance between them just seems completely out of step - much like the film, it never rises.
The potential duality of the characters simply falls short at the hurdles; Howard's vicious but scared out of his wits gangster never reaches potential, Farrell's troubled shut-in who goes on ludicrous action sequences isn't believable, and Rapace's flit between a revenge obsessed, tortured broken woman to broken wing romantic is not all there.
It's a B-movie action flick at best; the only surprising aspect of the entire caper is the $30 million reported budget.
What the Mr Thought:
Being Hungarian, I must say I enjoy watching films where the action includes a character purported to be of my nationality; but Farrell is pretty much about as far from a typical Hungarian male as you can get. By the time the film gets into the thick of the action, the clichés and the build up of crushing stereotypes are just too much to simply sit back and enjoy the action. If it was a straight up shoot-out with Farrell, it probably would have been more enjoyable. The mistake was wanting to create the tension and serious self-concious dark drama; this won't work without someone like Gosling to helm the lead.
What the Misses Thought:
I was interested in the film for the majority of the time we were sat in the cinema...however it lulled around the middle for me and I lost interest. I think the best word to describe it would be, fine.
But you didn't hear it from us,
Mr & Misses