Dead Man Down Defies a Few Action Movie Stereotypes
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2013 8 Mar
DVD Release Date: July 9, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: March 8, 2013
Rating: R (violence, language throughout and a scene of sexuality)
Run Time: 110 min.
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Cast: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Dominic Cooper, Terrence Howard, Isabelle Huppert
Perhaps hoping to eschew the most common complains about today’s action movies, namely that they’re too dumb, loud and predictable to qualify as anything but a guilty pleasure, Dead Man Down follows a different trajectory altogether with a decidedly Indie movie feel, thanks to director Niels Arden, who worked on the original Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
While you’d never guess from the film’s generic title, Dead Man Down is anything but the classic revenge tale—well, until the final act, anyway. Starring Colin Farrell (Seven Psychopaths) and Noomi Rapace, who starred in the aforementioned Tattoo, Dead Man Down is disturbing, very European, and a little odd, right from the get-go. It's plot twists border on ridiculous.
And yet, even despite several random mentions of Tupperware (hello?) and the inclusion of some extremely mean-spirited children, it’s still impossible not to wonder where this story is headed because there’s such an utter unpredictability about it all.
And thanks to some fairly well-executed character development for the leading man and lady, a rarity in this genre, the audience practically can’t help wanting to see the wrongs righted, and the bad guys suffer for their sins in fantastical fashion, something these filmmakers take an almost gleeful delight in.
As the strong, silent type with a laser-like precision whenever killing someone is involved, Farrell plays Victor, a thug for hire. While working for New York crime lord Alphonse Hoyt (a standout Terrence Howard, Iron Man), the rest of Alphonse’s crew is being hunted down by a rather enigmatic predator. Turns out, the killer’s calling card is sending pieces of photographs through the mail to taunt them since they were the ones behind the loss of his family.
Not surprisingly, the mystery man is Victor himself, which is established early on. Essentially beating them by joining their efforts, he eventually meets his match, albeit a reckless one in Beatrice (Rapace), who happens to be his neighbor with her own agenda. Since she caught Victor in the act of strangling a man, she’s using that information to blackmail him. See, she wants Victor to do the same to the man responsible for the car accident that left her disfigured both physically and emotionally.
Helping to lighten the movie’s heavy load is a bit of comic relief from the always-superb French actress Isabelle Huppert (Amour) as Beatrice’s Tupperware-loving, hearing-impaired mother. As much as her inclusion adds levity, however, make no mistake: Dead Man Down is all about revenge and its ultimate consequences.
Whether it’s extended torture sequences with the usual weaponry or a particularly squirm-worthy scene where a dozen rats are unleashed to snack on a man in custody, Dead Man Down seems dead-set on setting itself apart with shock value.
Unfortunately, in a genre where Quentin Tarantino’s random bursts of violence don’t seem all that groundbreaking anymore, Dead Man Down eventually falls prey to what action movie enthusiasts have seen so many times before. It’s then when the dialogue—not to mention the fly-by-the-seat-of-its-pants momentum established in the first two-thirds of Dead Man Down—falls impossibly flat.
As unsatisfying as the conclusion is, the journey itself makes for a pretty fascinating morality tale—as far as action movies go, anyway. A healthy suspension of disbelief definitely helps, not to mention a strong stomach, especially if rodents or a story lacking a strong moral center make you twitchy.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Cigarette smoking and some social drinking
- Language/Profanity: Expletives, particularly the “f” word and sh--, are used throughout, plus there are a handful of instances where God and Jesus’s names are taken in vain or paired with da--. Racial epithets.
- Sex/Nudity: Crude references to male and female anatomy and sexual acts. Several implied sexual encounters. One quick, mildly graphic sex scene has brief rear nudity.
- Violence: Several scenes involving gun-related violence and hand-to-hand combat—some instances are bloodier than others. We see various types of torture that include beatings, hangings, burnings and explosions. A dozen or so rats are released during a torture sequence to feast on a blindfolded man. Beatrice sees Victor murder—and dump the body—of a man and wants him to do the same to the person who made her disfigured in a car accident.
Christa Banister is an author and full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
Publication date: March 8, 2013