Dead Man Down is the English-language debut of Danish filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev (OG Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). The film is a boilerplate revenge thriller in several ways, but Oplev brings enough of his moody, stylish flares to the table that it feels fresh. And by the third act, he just throws the revenge rule book out the window and dishes out one fierce, explosive finale.
The film follows two neurotics out for revenge. Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) is a stunning beautician who was left scarred by a driving accident. She has barely noticeable pink scars on one side of her face, so she’s still gorgeous, but not gorgeous enough! She’s out to kill the drunk driver that turned her into this hideous monster!
Colin Farrell (S.W.A.T.) plays Victor, a Hungarian thug whose apartment is directly across the street from Beatrice’s. I have no idea why he’s Hungarian – it adds nothing to the story. I thought the writer made that decision because Hungarians have some kind of bloodlust culture, but more than likely it’s because Irishman Colin Farrell’s American accent sucks so they figured “let’s make him Hungarian. A sexy Hungarian.”
He’s seeking retribution against his employer, Alphonse, played with style to spare by Terrence Howard. I like Howard, who recently praised Oprah’s tits in an interview. Victor has infiltrated Alphonse’s organization in order to get revenge on him for killing his wife and daughter a couple years ago. He starts sending Alphonse anonymous threats – pictures with his eyes crossed out and such. Alphonse believes they’re coming from a Hungarian he thought he killed two years ago. Which they are, he just has no clue it’s Victor because he changed his name and the film refuses to acknowledge gaping plot holes.
If the plot sounds a bit convoluted, that’s because it is. Even more so when Beatrice starts blackmailing Victor after she spies him murdering someone on his balcony. Now instead of brooding over his wife and daughter and sending Alphonse hate-mail, Victor has to become her personal hitman.
Farrell and Rapace do manage to be engaging enough to hold our interest throughout the preposterous plot twists and coiled story. He broods really well and she plays the damaged Beatrice in a chillingly psychotic manner. Howard is great, as always, even if the Aplhonse character is too dimwitted to realize Victor is the Hungarian he thought he killed. Don’t mob bosses perform background checks on their new muscle? Yeesh.
The intricate plot is thrown away during the finale to make way for a bombastic, outrageous action scene. I’m not complaining though – it kicks ass. Victor becomes a frothing, battering ram of violence. It’s a scene that makes absolutely no sense at times but is admirable for its cavalier delivery.
When I was walking out of the theater, I heard some guy complain about there were never any cops around in the movie. “He drives a truck into a house and nobody calls the cops?! C’mon!” I hate those types of viewers, man. Like they would really rather watch Farrell have a stand-off with the police for 30 minutes than see him dropkick Terrence Howard in the face.
Anyways, Dead Man Down is a stylish, moody film with solid performances and a batshit climax. It sticks to a standard revenge thriller story, but breaks away to do it’s own thing enough times to be interesting. If only the drab first hour was as entertaining as the last, we’d have a great movie on our hands instead of just a good one.- Patrick Cooper