When a foreign director makes his or her Hollywood debut, the transition rarely runs very smoothly. This is the reason so many english adaptations of foreign films are directed and written by american directors; our country’s film industry knows how people typically like their entertainment and know how to give it to them. Take the English remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the film which gave Dead Man Down director Niels Arden Oplev his big break. While David Fincher managed to stay remarkably true to the original in terms of the story, the tone, even the visuals involved, he managed to tweak all of the right aspects to make the film palatable for larger audiences. This isn’t the case with Dead Man Down. Even the awkwardness title makes it clear that Oplev is a fish out of water in the american movie-making scene, and between the film’s lackluster reviews and it’s dreadful performance at the box office it’s very unlikely many producers will be knocking down his door for another project in the near future. While its story features and admirable level of complexity that at least kept me interested throughout, the complete and total lack of chemistry between the two leads along with slow pacing make Dead Man Down a film you shouldn’t worry about missing.
In New York City, a crime lord’s right-hand man is seduced by one of his boss’s victims, a woman seeking retribution.
Some reviews I’ve seen have cited the plot and it’s various twists as the film’s weakest point, but in a year filled with movie after movie with boring, predictable story lines I thought it was nice to have a few twists and turns. I would like to point out that the marketing completely misrepresented Noomi Rapace’s role in this, so if the trailers lead you come into the movie expecting her to be some sort of femme fatale you will be sadly mistaken.
Colin Farrell plays Victor, a hungarian immigrant who has dedicated the past two years of his life to exacting revenge on the man responsible for the death of his wife and daughter. While he has every right to be unhappy, Victor is just too moody to really be that compelling. It’s hard to pin this on Farrell’s performance as I really believe the writing for his character is at fault, but I’ll get into that later. His best moments come from behind the barrel of a gun, but otherwise he’s pretty flat.
The biggest let down for me was Noomi Rapace’s character, Beatrice. As the resident of the apartment across the way from Victor and the survivor of a car accident which left her face riddled with scars, Beatrice is intended to come across as a broken soul who finds her comfort in the similarly broken Victor. Aside from the fact that she does nothing but screw things up for Victor in his quest for vengeance, she also has absolutely no chemistry with him and that lack of chemistry makes every scene between the two drag on to the point where I almost started to daydream. Both Rapace and Farrell have proven themselves great actors in other films so it was a surprise for me to feel absolutely nothing from their on screen pairing.
Finally we have Terrence Howard as the main villain Alphonse (seriously, that’s the best they could do? That name sounds more fitting of a hair dresser than a crime lord). Howard has always been one of those actors that I like, but am not really sure why. He does so many god-awful movies that I’m almost always disappointed by the roles he takes, but I continue to see his presence in a movie as a plus. In any case, this role definitely falls into the lower end of his, and if you were planning to see the movie on his behalf I’d recommend just re-watching Iron Man and calling it good. Alphonse has almost no development seeing as most of the time he’s on screen he’s simply trying to figure out who is trying to kill him. There was one scene in particular, when he seemingly finds Victor out only to not doing anything about it, that completely perplexed me. Once again, I blame the writing but Howard didn’t exactly bring anything extra to the table to compensate.
What can I say, it’s just bad writing. The dialogue is completely unremarkable, which the movie could have almost gotten away with if it had focused solely on the story. Instead it tries to develop the romance between Victor and Beatrice. Because of the aforementioned lack of chemistry resulting largely from the poor dialogue between the two, the movie’s two hour run time feels much longer than it actually is.
The Verdict: 5.0/10 – Mediocre
+ A plot that forces you to pay attention to what’s going on
+ Who doesn’t love a good revenge flick?
– The pace is far too slow for the first 3/4 of the movie
– Farrell and Rapace have absolutely no chemistry together and Howard is just plain weird
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%
Devil’s Advocates: 4/5
The Code is Zeek: 2.5/5