by / May 2nd, 2013 /

Dead Man Down

Review by on May 2nd, 2013

 2/5 Rating

Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Cast: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Dominic Hooper, Terrence Howard
Running Time: 118 mins
Release Date: May 3
Cert: 15A

Colin Farrell is determined to right a few wrongs in this modern-day thriller that aims for an artsy feel, but offers little apart from some mild entertainment here and there.

New York crime boss Alphonse (Terrence Howard) and his gang members are being targeted by a faceless enemy whose actions threaten to undermine their entire operation. When one of his trusted lieutenants is discovered dead in a freezer, Alphonse vows to unmask his assailant. Right-hand man Victor (Colin Farrell) and other gang members are tasked with getting to the bottom of this mystery but, unbeknownst to them, Victor is engaged in a clandestine payback mission of his own. When his neighbour Beatrice (Noomi Rapace)—thirsty for revenge on a drunk driver whose recklessness left her nursing serious injuries—gets wind of Victor’s shady activities, she issues him with an ultimatum. Subsequent events bring the pair closer together, but their lives are soon in danger as the quest to get even takes them towards the inevitable denouement.

Revenge is the name of the game here, but this is no South Korean vengeance flick. It’s much softer around the edges and the characters are not as intensely driven in terms of their blood-lust. Oplev, who directed the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, is keen to focus on the possibility of redemption for characters such as Victor and Beatrice. Yet their backgrounds are only briefly outlined—and not very well at that—so it is difficult to care all that much about their past traumas.

The pair do spend a lot of time together, and despite their considerable reputations as actors there is little chemistry between Farrell and Rapace. The latter is at her best during moments of distress when her character becomes highly-strung, but these are few and far between. Farrell’s Victor is something of an oddity—a man of few words who remains distant throughout. The Dubliner does a reasonably good job, but he often seems to end up in films that do not truly put his skills to the test, with the result that it becomes difficult to gauge just how good an actor he really is. Isabelle Huppert makes a curious appearance as Beatrice’s tupperware-obsessed mother while Howard brings a charismatic look to gangland boss Alphonse, even if the script does not allow him to develop the character much further.

All the action unfolds in New York, although it doesn’t much feel like it. In fact, there isn’t a whole lot of feeling to go around in general—Victor and Beatrice are fixated on getting their revenge, but lack that extra bit of fire that ought to fuel their motivations and actions. The gangsters are supposed to be angry, but they’re not very intimidating. Presumably this is done in order to make the film accessible to those outside of the 18-34-year-old male demographic. And it does, potentially, appeal to a wider base than that, especially considering the inclusion of a strong female lead. But the lack of substance here is impossible to ignore—and no matter what audience you fall into, you’ll be hard pressed to recount a single memorable line or scene after the credits have rolled.