Dead Man Down
dir Niels Arden Oplev
scr JH Wyman
prd Neal H Moritz, JH Wyman
with Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper, Isabelle Huppert, F Murray Abraham, Armand Assante, James Biberi, Luis Da Silva Jr, Stu Bennett, Franky G, Declan Mulvey
release US 8.Mar.13, UK 3.May.13
13/US 1h58
Dead Man Down
Just drive: Rapace and Farrell

howard cooper huppert
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Dead Man Down Visual style and strong characters aren't enough to make up for a deeply flawed script that fails to make logical sense. Director Oplev shows the steely flair that made the original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo so riveting, but this twisty story simply doesn't hold water.

Gun-toting goon Victor (Farrell) works for the slick mobster Alphonse (Howard), who's being targeted by a complex, unnerving plot. Meanwhile, Victor's observant neighbour Beatrice (Rapace) reveals that she'll tell the cops that he's a killer unless he helps get revenge for a car crash that left her face scarred. But Victor is already working to avenge an earlier tragedy of his own, helped by a family member (Abraham). And as Victor and Beatrice fall for each other, both wonder if they might overcome their anger another way.

Yes, this is one of those films that preaches love and redemption even as the characters massacre scores of faceless thugs, who apparently have no vengeful relatives of their own. But then, this same flawed premise informs most of Hollywood's action output (as well as government military policy). And we might go along with it if our soulful hero hesitated before blasting another bodyguard into the afterlife.

Oplev directs with a lush seductiveness that's earthy enough to draw us into each setting while stirring up emotional undercurrents. Farrell and Rapace are terrific as the tortured, dark-eyed couple at the centre. Although Victor is equipped with almost sci-fi levels of whizzy electronics and guns, and for a hairdresser Beatrice is remarkably adept at tracking his stealthy manoeuvres. Superb side characters include Huppert as Beatrice's over-eager mum, Cooper as Victor's brotherly colleague and one-scene player Assante as the big boss.

Everything's assembled with considerable skill both in front of and behind the camera. Action scenes are rough and nasty, leading to a big confrontational climax that isn't remotely what we've been led to expect. So it's a shame that the screenplay leaves such a trail of plot-holes along the way, which badly simplifies the character arcs. So while the explosive finale is full of nice surprises, it also feels like a mere formality. And frankly what happens next would be a lot more interesting to watch.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 29.Apr.13

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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall