Dead Man Down Review

Posted: August 18, 2013 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Dead-Man-Down-PosterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Review contains minor spoilers.

Earlier this year, I remember being amused at the trailers for a little movie called Dead Man Down. Firstly, I thought it was hysterical to see a film from WWE studios that looked like a legitimate movie and not a vehicle for one of their stars. More importantly, I noticed the sneaky use of the tagline, “From the director of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, which I thought was likely there to convince people David Fincher was behind Dead Man Down. This is of course, false. The tagline actually refers to Niels Arden Oplev, director of the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I found his direction one of the weakest points of that film, so my expectations for Dead Man Down weren’t very high. Still, I was interested enough that when I saw it at my local library I figured it was worth a watch.

The film follows Victor (Colin Farrell), a thug for crime boss Alphonse Hoyt (Terrence Howard). Alphonse has been staked by a mysterious figure with a grudge that has been sending Alphonse threatening messages and photos. Little does Alphonse know that Victor is the one sending these messages and is plotting revenge for a slight in the past. Victor’s vengeance is further complicated when his neighbor Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) attempts to blackmail him, however their relationship evolves over the course of the film.

With Dead Man Down, Oplev has evolved as a filmmaker. Where Girl with the Dragon Tattoo felt very much like a tv movie, Dead Man Down feels like a much more polished thriller. Oplev gives the film a slow pace which allows the story to play out naturally and action beats are used sparingly but effectively. Granted, I still think the dude has a lot to learn. He hasn’t really developed a style and constructs the film like a typical thriller, albeit a well-executed one. I also don’t really agree with all of his decisions and there are a few moments which don’t really work. Still, Oplev has clearly improved and I look forward to seeing what he may do in the future.

The leads here are very strong. Colin Farrell plays the silent protagonist who seems one dimensional at first but more shades of his character are revealed as the film plays out. Farrell handles the material very well and the way he slowly reveals more about Victor plays nicely. Noomi Rapace is even better as the neighbor Beatrice. Her character is someone who shows a lot of shades from being emotionally fragile to very caring to smart and resourceful. The two play off each other very well and make for a screen couple that’s easy to root for. Both are characters motivated by vengeance and I like the way the two of them handle that emotion. It is their performances which led to me being as invested in the story as I was. I don’t have any problems with the rest of the cast, but there aren’t any noteworthy performances outside of the leads.

Dead Man Down is titled and was marketed like an action film, but that’s pretty misleading. J.H. Whyman’s script and Oplev’s direction chooses to focus on story and character instead and there are only three real action set pieces. Two of these scenes are highly effective. The first is a shootout which may not be very innovative but is exciting and punctuates the scene. The second is a pretty creative cat and mouse game which is fun and doesn’t over stay its welcome. Unfortunately the third action set piece, the climax, is pretty dumb and does not fit the tone of the film. The scene also leads to an ending that tries to have its cake and eat it as well as one that resolves all loose ends far too cleanly.

I’m not really sure why critics hated on Dead Man Down. The film certainly has its flaws, Oplev hasn’t really developed an auteur stamp, some scenes don’t work, and the ending is a disappointment. Still, the pros here outweigh the cons. The story is genuinely engaging, the lead performances are great, most action exciting, and the whole thing features solid execution for the most part. It’s not a great film, but Dead Man Down is a solid piece of entertainment and a respectable work.


  1. le0pard13 says:

    Good to hear, Daniel. I do like its cast and want to see this. Thanks.

  2. moviebuff801 says:

    Finally! Someone else who likes this movie!

  3. brikhaus says:

    Interesting. I hadn’t heard of this one. Thanks for the review.

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