‘Dead Man Down’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 18th, 2014 at 3:35 am,

Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace in Dead Man Down Dead Man Down Review

Dead Man Down is a strange beast of a crime-thriller-drama, best described as something like 21 Grams meets Donnie Brasco – with a Die Hard finale thrown in for good measure.

In Dead Man Down Colin Farrell plays Victor, the member of a violent crime syndicate whose boss, Alphonse (Terrence Howard), is being targeted by an unknown assailant hell-bent on picking the gang apart. Little do Alphonse and crew know, it is Victor himself who is causing mayhem from within their very ranks – as revenge for a great evil done to the former engineer and his family.

Everything is going according to well-orchestrated plan, until Victor meets Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), a fellow scarred and lonely soul from the next building who decides to make a connection. Victor quickly learns that Beatrice has darkness running much deeper under her skin than he initially thought, and their relationship complicates an already delicate game of chess, in which one wrong move results in blood being spilt on the streets.

Dead Man Down Review starring Colin Farrell Noomi Rapace and Terence Howard Dead Man Down Review

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev, the man behind the original Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which made an international star out of Noomi Rapace), Dead Man Down is a strange beast of a crime-thriller-drama, best described as something like 21 Grams meets Donnie Brasco – with a Die Hard finale thrown in for good measure. The result is not quite a great film – but thanks to strong central characters and quality actors playing them, we do get an interesting and fairly good B-movie experience.

Similar to (but not equal to) Martin Scorsese, Oplev is a director who is able infuse the gangster movie sub-genre with some high-art cinematic flare. There are many visually striking moments and sequences throughout the film – as well as a level of mise-en-scene and iconography that is almost poetic in its execution (see: Victor and Beatrice’s first “meeting”). These moments – primarily found in and around the romantic sub-plot – are a stark contrast to the more visceral action bits, which are plotted out with a clever mathematical precision.

Colin Farrell Dead Man Down ending Dead Man Down Review

Colin Farrell in ‘Dead Man Down’

The same ‘left brain, right brain’ (oscillation?) (dichotomy?) can be seen in the script by J.H. Wyman. In many ways Dead Man Down carries the same stamp of genre-blended oddity that can be seen in Wyman’s most notable feature-film script, The Mexican. Like that film, however, Dead Man Down also has moments where it feels like momentum and intrigue are suddenly being sidelined in favor of stage play-style character dialogues and development. Luckily for Dead Man Down, the actors playing the central roles are skilled enough to make these (at times oddly theatrical) characters worthy of watching.

Farrell does straight-faced intensity well enough, and he makes Victor a guy who is complex and intriguing enough (in few words) that following him along his dark odyssey is easy to do. Brief scenes detailing Victor’s old life are testaments to how rounded and complete the character really is – so seeing him struggle with questions of morality, duty and compassion feel organic and relevant, unlike so many other cliched takes on the same material.

Noomi Rapace in Dead Man Down Dead Man Down Review

Noomi Rapace in ‘Dead Man Down’

Rapace is the major standout as Beatrice – a former beautician whose life was shattered by a car accident. There’s considerable complexity to the character; in fact, the first half-hour getting to know her is a like taking a roller-coaster ride of perception, there are some many twists and turns. When the story has finally settled in, however, Rapace commands attention and pulls off Beatrice’s arc both beautifully and completely… before she unfortunately gets lost in the shuffle of a somewhat silly third act (but more on that later).

Terrence Howard and Dominic Cooper (Captain America) are their usual scene-stealing selves; Howard chews scenery with a braggadocio swagger as Alphonse, while Cooper seems to be headlining a movie all in his head playing “Darcy,” a noble lackey and Victor’s best “friend” in the gang – who also happens to be the one guy pushing closer and closer to finding out Victor’s secret. French actress Isabelle Huppert makes off with the few scenes she’s in, playing Beatrice’s loving mother, and a few other familiar faces like F. Murray Abraham and Armand Assante cameo as various members of the underworld.

Terrence Howard and Dominic Cooper in Dead Man Down Dead Man Down Review

Terrence Howard and Dominic Cooper in ‘Dead Man Down’

While two-thirds of the film are a slow-burn character piece / cat-and-mouse thriller, the final act blows into a full-on, Die Hard-style action fest. The sudden shift is very awkward; it stretches the limit on suspension of disbelief, and compromises a number of character and plot-points carefully developed up to that point – but the big final set piece is nonetheless entertaining on a pure action/spectacle level. The ending of the film is, too, a somewhat reductive and cliched resolution to many of the more interesting themes and character arcs explored along the way, but delivers enough of a payoff that the average movie fan will probably be satisfied.

In the end, Dead Man Down is two-thirds of a film for the arthouse/indie crowd with a third leftover for the mindless action-lover. As a result, this strange beast falls somewhere in the middle of things in terms of quality – but for fans of the cast members or those who love revenge thrillers that aren’t afraid to explore the more complicated themes of vengeance, there’s something here to see.

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Dead Man Down is now in theaters. It is 110 minutes long and is Rated R for violence, language throughout and a scene of sexuality.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. 3 out of 5

    Wow!! This is the 1st rating & review that i actually agree with because they usually suck, but this review was on point. The rating as well.

    • @Norrin

      Yah, usually when the review doesn’t agree with your opinion that means it sucks. I hate it when reviews suck…

  2. This movie just rocks!!! Great acting, action & story. This is the movie to see this weekend, NOT Oz. Howard plays an excellent villain, and Ferrell just kills it, could be his best role yet. Great movie!

    • in bruges

      • Great movie

  3. I’m sure there’s a pro wrestler in this (either David Otunga aka Mr Jennifer Hudson or Wade Barrett, I forget which) which is how I knew about the movie before it started filming and from the wrestling sites I’ve looked at today, this movie seems to have received a bit of a critical mauling according to their reports.

    SR might be the first movie site I know of that said it was just ok and not terrible. I’ll probably see it on television.

    • @Dazz

      From the previews this movie looks terrible. I’m also not really a fan of Colin Farrell, so I’m probably going to skip this one as well…

      Speaking of wrestling movies though, WWE films produced this movie coming out next weekend called “The Call” with Halle Berry. Cannot tell who in it is a wrestler though, maybe one of the cops, but he was such a minor role I don’t think that’s it… But anyway, it was a pretty decent movie. Although the first 2/3 of the movie was actually REALLY good in my opinion, the ending was a bit lacking and kind of on the cheesy side…

      What have you heard about that in the wrestling websites?? Who the heck is a wrestler in that movie?? lol

      • wade barrett he doesnt speak very small role i think

  4. I agree with most of this review, thought it was pretty fair. The one thing that gets me is that same thing that has gotten me about ALL the reviews of this movie: the whole “over the top third act” thing. First off, that final scene when almost all the action in the film takes place is the about 8 minutes long, hardly a “third act” considering the film is about 2 hours long. The ending as well as the beginning I thought were the opposite of cliche. The beginning starts halfway through the story and the end is unexpectedly abrupt. I would have gone with 4 out of 5 because I loved the mood of the film, and both Rapace and Howard were excellent. It was certainly better than Snitch (there you go again, giving a sub-par Rock movie as many stars as a clearly better film) at the very least.

  5. No matter the review, the rating or the box office, Colin Farrell simply needs more “humor” in the roles he plays. Can we name one movie wherein actor’s character is appropriately glib? His protagonist is just too damn dark and serious — all the time! I’m sure as an accomplished thespian, he can play witty. Couldn’t hurt.