Title: Dead Man Down
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Starring: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terence Howard, Dominic Cooper, Isabelle Huppert
Dead Man Down is a slow-burner that has the ability to spark at the right moments. Whether it’s circling back and answering reasonable questions regarding character motivations or just adding in subtle doses of suspenseful action, the 110 minutes end up being worth the methodical ride that is bookended with two engaging shoot’em up sequences.
At the helm is Niels Arden Oplev, who directed the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and he once again calls upon the starlet, Noomi Rapace, to be the female lead in this crime drama. At the center of this gritty NYC crime web is Colin Farrell. He works for a well-off kingpin played by Terrence Howard. Howard has become paranoid as someone goes to cryptic lengths ranging from photographs to notes attached to his crew’s dead bodies, which basically state death is coming for him. He believes other criminal syndicates in the city are behind it, but doesn’t have the proof. So he relies on Farrell and the bumbling Dominic Cooper to enact an investigation, in order to see who is slowly stalking him.
Meanwhile, Farrell is more-or-less window flirting with a girl (Rapace) across the way in the same building. She eventually approaches him and they head out on a date. But it’s not just any date, for the vulnerable girl has an agenda which puts the mysterious Farrell in a compromising predicament.
There is more to it, folks, but adding additional info (try not to read the IMDb.com page/synopsis) would lead to spoilers and nullify the reaction to the timely twists that enable this to keep moving.
While it follows a delivery pattern similar to Oplev’s Dragon Tattoo, a better comparison could be a more subdued version of The Crow. Actually, how about Crow meets The American? Yeah, that’s what this equates to. Themes of vengeance, redemption and doing the illegal to make things right, softly weave through this. And there are moments of reflection about moving forward despite still feeling the wounds of a broken past. Though saddled with pockets of dullness, which go on display during the repetitive conversations between Farrell and Rapace, the payoff is actually worth meticulous build-up.
The characters are not layered but all the performers sure do beef them up. In other words, the key players in this took paper-thin personas and elevated them to intriguing places. Everyone is all-in, and thankfully on the same page, or else this could have been a real laugher (and not the kind you want).
Overall, Dead Man Down isn’t a lively show by any means. But there are just enough strategic jolting sequences to get the heart pumping and keep the mind in-tune.