“Dead Man Down” is the story of a mob enforcer (Colin Farrell) secretly out for revenge who gets caught up in a neighbor’s (Noomi Rapace) own struggle to face the man who scarred her face.
Revenge is one of the stongest themes conveyed on film and a personal favorite of mine as well. These films tend to be all blood and tough one-liners, but “Dead Man Down” actually plays it cool and takes time to develop its characters. Perhaps this is due to the film’s Danish director Niels Arden Oplev, best known for his work on the Swedish version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” He brings a foreign influence to the film that can clearly be seen in its tone and pace.
Farrell plays Victor, a Hungarian immigrant-turned-mobster who is well-respected by his boss (Terrence Howard) and co-workers (Dominic Cooper, among others). Victor is cold, calculating and filled with a quiet rage. Farrell works wonders with that last part because his eyes can handle a vide spectrum of emotions. His neighbor across the way, Beatrice, is recovering from a serious injury she suffered at the hands of a drunk driver. After watching Victor kill a man in his apartment, Beatrice blackmails him into exacting her revenge.
In a way, Rapace’s character is a little similar to her famous role as Lisbeth Salander. Obviously there are some differences in the character’s psyche, but she is a woman who has been wronged by a man and looking to get even. Beatrice is damaged goods because of her accident. Even the neighborhood kids throw rocks at her and call her a monster. It’s not groundbreaking territory for Rapace, but she plays the part quite well.
Where the film loses points is that it becomes overly ambitious by the end and sub-plots start to get convoluted. However, if the worst part of a film is that it tries too hard, that usually isn’t such a bad thing. What’s more annoying is that, for a film that spends so much time on its characters, Terrence Howard is a pretty boring villain. Given the reputation he has in the film, one would expect some more interesting scenes for him to work in.
Though the film isn’t as bullet-ridden as the trailer suggests, the few action scenes it has are handled well for a director not known for his work in action films. One scene in particular, where Farrell is trying to evade capture, stands out as being well put together.
The best part about “Dead Man Down” is that it isn’t your run of the mill revenge flick, though they can be fun. Strong characters and a few exciting action sequences make it the first great film of 2013 (and it was produced by WWE entertainment, no less).