Review: Dead Man Down

Dead Man Down Poster

When a damaged young French woman (Noomi Rapace) observes her neighbor (Colin Farrell) killing a man, she takes the opportunity to coerce him into taking care of a piece of business for her as well.  Soon she realizes that his is a more complicated story than she thought and finds herself caught up not only in her mission of revenge, but his as well.

Terrence Howard and Dominic Cooper also star.

Dead Man Down is something that Snitch should have been.  It’s a complex drama, wrapped in the shell of an action-oriented thriller.  It’s also a bit of a love story.  Above all, this is a film about revenge – not just the act itself, like many a shoot-em-up, but the psychological aspect, the way people think about revenge.  Why it drives them, what it means to them, how it changes them.  This could almost be a cousin to Park Chan Wook’s trilogy with maybe a little Léon thrown in for tonal flavor.

Rather than rely on the action or the planning, Dead Man Down gives itself over to the characters.  Rapace and Farrell  (but especially Rapace) give some great, subtle, performances of complex people, both haunted – in different ways – by their past and the people in it.  An appropriate amount of action beats to keep the story from becoming stagnant – not so much as to turn it into another bullet fest though.

It’s not perfect.  There’s a lack of edge that, if there, could have made it an extremely effective thriller.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something about it that is just too subtle, or too clean, too constrained.  It really shines in the few parts where control starts to be lost and the intensity is racked up.  It’s a bit of a catch-22, however, as that same restraint I’m complaining about is part of what made me enjoy the film.  It allows a chance to step back and really think about what’s happening instead of going from one killing spree to the next.  Taking a closer look also serves to reveal some cliches, but they are mostly forgiven because the characters are so compelling in committing them.

This is not going to be a film everyone is going to enjoy.  Director Oplev brings his European flavor to this, his first American film, while trying to make something US audiences will enjoy.  Occasionally those two influences cancel each other out, and sometimes it seems a little too foreign for the average mainstream movie-goer.

Personally, I rather enjoyed it.  It’s not as memorable as some, but definitely worth the watch.  I have a feeling I will be in the minority, giving it a positive review, but I encourage you to give it a chance.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Hats

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Mrs. Hamster Says:

“It was an alright movie, but I was bored during some of it.  I feel like ten to twenty minutes could have been cut.”

Trailer:

Dead Man Down opens in 2,188 theaters, March 8th