Dead Man Down is another film that may have fallen victim to an inaccurate ad campaign. Much as the movie Snitch, it was portrayed as more of an action flick instead of the more thoughtful drama it is. Dead Man Down is in fact a gritty revenge thriller, and it does have it’s share of well staged action sequences, but it’s also a tender, romantic drama at its core. Amidst the violence, two people find each other, though neither planned things that way at the outset. It’s this relationship that carries the movie to a higher level than it might have been and made it more than just another revenge saga about a man who lost everything dear in his life, and vowed to take those responsible down.
Victor (Colin Farrell) is an up and coming enforcer for crime boss Alphonse Hoyt (Terrence Howard). We first meet Victor as he watches his friend and cohort Darcy (Dominic Cooper) holding his infant son, and even though both follow a dangerous profession, the scene shows how each longs for that sense of a normal life. The next scene finds a body left in a freezer, a threat against Hoyt, and one that Victor and Darcy need to investigate. They think they know who is responsible, and confront the person, leading to a violent shoot-out where Victor ends up saving Hoyt’s life. The movie then takes us back to Victor’s apartment, where he watches from his balcony a woman across from him. The woman, named Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) has been working up the courage to ask Victor out, since her face bears scarring from an automobile accident years earlier. The two do go out on a date, and Beatrice makes a startling revelation to Victor- that she knows who he is, and what he has done. She has a video on her phone of Victor eliminating a target, and she uses that video to blackmail Victor into doing something for her. What Beatrice wants is for Victor to kill the man responsible for destroying her life, as he was never properly punished for causing the accident that scarred her. Victor agrees, but he has issues that need resolving of their own. Over a time, feelings change and grow between the pair, while life escalates dangerously around them.
Director Niels Arden Oplev does a nice job here in balancing both drama and action. Much as he did with the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which also starred Rapace), he delivers strong characters caught up in unsavory circumstances, and develops the relationship between Victor and Beatrice naturally and believably. It helps that strong performances from both Farrell (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, 2012’s version of Total Recall) and Rapace (Prometheus, the Millennium trilogy, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) sell the relationship well, and make you genuinely care for the characters. Cooper is very good as fellow enforcer Darcy, who turns detective and ends up revealing something from Victor’s past. Howard does fine as the crime boss, though he doesn’t have a real air of menace about him, in spite of being more than ready to kill any opposition or threats to him. Isabelle Huppert (Amour) gives a sweet performance as Beatrice’s mother. F. Murray Abraham does well in his small role as Victor’s uncle, as does Armand Assante as another crime boss. The performances from the entire cast just help to sell the movie well, lifting it up from what could have been just a generic action thriller. Adding to that is the brilliant score by Jacob Groth, who also did the music for The Millennium Trilogy, which just makes for a perfect backdrop to the proceedings, and the cinematography by Paul Cameron succeeds in capturing the action well along with the film’s quieter moments.
Dead Man Down in the end is more than what it seems. It holds your interest easily for its 118 minute running time, with thrilling action pieces book-ending the movie and a very tender romance in between. It maintains plenty of suspense throughout while making us care for its two main characters. With its strong performances, this revenge thriller is well worth your time.
Dead Man Down is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
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