Colin Farrell stars as Victor, a man seduced and blackmailed by his neighbour; a woman seeking revenge for a tragic accident that left her disfigured. Little does Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) realise, there is much more to Victor than meets the eye.
Dead Man Down is made by the same man who made the Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Niels Arden Oplev – and it seems the director has not grown or developed since moving into the realm of Hollywood cinema, instead, he continues in the way that worked for the first of three films in the Millennium Trilogy.
Colin Farrell does what he can with the character of Victor, but every time he tries to round the character out, he seems to have been pushed back. Victor is taking out a vendetta on the man that he works for, and we know that Beatrice may have seen something she shouldn’t have, but we are not told about Victor’s past until late into the second act of the film, which leaves it just long enough for the audience not to care about the character. As well as this, being monosyllabic and violent with a bad accent does not a character make.
Similar goes for Beatrice. Noomi Rapace does what she can with the character, but she so quickly shows herself to be without scruple that, by the time Beatrice truly reveals herself we have lost interest. Neither hero nor anti-hero, Beatrice comes off as ill defined. Scars do not a character make, either.
It is never really clear why Isabelle Huppert signed up for Dead Man Down. Having given a stellar performance in Amour last year, Huppert is reduced to a hard of hearing mother who wants nothing more than to set her daughter up with a nice murderer. Terrence Howard gives another lacklustre performance as the villain, Alphonse. Dominic Cooper hams it up spectacularly as henchman Darcy.
Writer J.H. Wyman has most recently been involved in TV’s Fringe, but with Dead Man Down, what should be a slow burning noir mystery turns into a boring and badly paced story about revenge. The set up is interesting, but the film tries to capitalise on the monosyllabic and stoic nature of the Driver from Drive, but does not give him anything real to fight for, leaving Victor feeling creepy rather than anything else.
Niels Arden Oplev made The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for television, and it seems that this is where his talent lies. Dead Man Down feels like a Tuesday afternoon TV movie, and never lives up to its premise. Character development is non-existent and emotional turns come off as creepy or hammy. It seems that Oplev’s success with the Dragon Tattoo may have been a fluke.
Dead Man Down could have been an interesting and entertaining noir thriller with a healthy dose of mystery. Instead the film suffers from ill defined characters, messy pacing and a ridiculous final battle. Although Dead Man Down is silly, it is not silly enough to be entertaining, or serious enough to carry the weight of its bad characterisation.