March 15, 2013
I did not know what to expect when I went in to see this film. With the title, I initially thought it would just be some sort of generic action movie. However, far from that, "Dead Man Down" turned out to be a very good character drama. In fact, the dramatic scenes were better than the action scenes. I should have expected this focus on character development especially with a European director making his Hollywood debut, Niels Arden Oplev, who megged the original Swedish "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."
The story is about Victor (Colin Farrell), a member of a crime syndicate led by the dapper Alphonse (Terrence Howard). The members of this gang are being killed one by one by an unknown rival. Meanwhile, Victor meets and hooks up with Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), a mysterious French woman with a scarred face who lives in the apartment across his own. As the movie progresses, we will witness the unfolding of an intricate plot of ulterior motives, blackmail and secret plans of revenge that tie the characters together, drawing them to a violent climax.
The relationship between Victor and Beatrice is what gives this movie that unique edge over the usual crime drama. Colin Farrell really gave an intense portrayal of a basically good man forced into a life of crime, haunted by a violent recent past event that destroyed his life. He was very good, never seen him tackle a role so passionately as this in his recent films. Noomi Rapace has that distinctive face that immediately suggests a wounded psyche. As she did in her breakout role as Lisbeth Salander in Oplev's "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo," she was able to project the torments suffered by a fragile victim of a disfiguring incident. Together, the two of them were able to let the chemistry build between them so gradually and believably, making us want to root them on.
The supporting characters were also very good. Dominic Cooper plays Darcy, Victor's friend in the gang, who was hot on moving up the crime organization. F. Murray Abraham, wow! I have not seen him for such a long time, maybe since his Best Actor Oscar-winning portrayal in "Amadeus". He was notable as Gregor, Victor's adviser in his plans. And French actress Isabelle Huppert, perhaps too young to realistically play Noomi Rapace's mother Valentine, yet she was very touching in her portrayal of this gentle character.
The action sequences were not that bad, mind you, but there was nothing really that original or memorable, except maybe one that involved a hanging, and another that involved rats. The climactic final action sequence, for example, seemed to be coming straight out of "The Expendables" with its over-the-top fiery explosions and gunfire. However, I enjoyed this more as the dramatic film than as the action film. It is just too bad performances in action movies do not really get noticed, but the acting of the lead cast here was more than up a notch from most other action-oriented movies.