Title: Dead Man Down
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev
Starring: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper, Isabelle Huppert
It’s not too surprising Dead Man Down works, as it certainly has the talent behind it to make something worthwhile. The original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo director Niels Arden Oplev makes his American debut, and Joel Wyman has certainly proven himself as a screenwriter with the 2001?s underrated The Mexican and the television’s “Fringe”. The film also boasts a cast that includes the likes of Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, and Terrence Howard, all capable actors.
What’s surprising is that Dead Man Down works as well as it does. At its heart, the movie is still a standard crime thriller, but the talent involved does enough to lift it above your average fare. Wyman’s script is the big star, as he does a fine job of giving a little bit of meat to these characters. True, some of it has a “been there, done that” feel, but Wyman’s explosive script keeps us invested in Victor and Beatrice’s journeys. There’s a real beating heart here amidst all the gunfire and brooding, and it really anchors the picture.
Niels Arden Oplev’s direction backs Wyman’s script, and while there seems to be a Michael Mann influence, Oplev does a fine job getting inside of these characters, layering themes of vanity and revenge subtly. He also has a sense of fun about him, especially when it comes to the thrilling action scenes he constructs. These sequences serve the plot, and Oplev gets this, but he also isn’t afraid to get gratuitous with them. He gives them a solid build, keeping us on the edge of our seats.
He’s also able to get fine performances out of his actors, especially Noomi Rapace as Beatrice. She isn’t the typical love interest, as Beatrice is allowed to have a few layers to her. Rapace is sympathetic when she’s asked to be, and seductive when she’s trying to convince Colin’s Victor to do a dirty deed for her. Beatrice is the most complex character in the film, and truly the one we feel the most for.
It doesn’t hurt she has terrific chemistry with Colin Farrell, who once again proves he’s got the chops to be both a strong character and badass action star. Farrell’s never received a fair share in Hollywood, although recently he’s been much better at picking his roles. He channels a lot of what he brought to Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice, brooding and menacing. He’s also asked to be physical, and Farrell emulates that perfectly. But the heart of this film rests with Victor and Beatrice, and it’s in those scenes Farrell shines the brightest.
Their supporting cast is all fine, even if they don’t particularly break the mold. Terrence Howard is great as Alphonse, providing a strong enough villain. Dominic Cooper plays Colin Farrell’s buddy Darcy, and is given a little steak on his plate to work with. Isabelle Huppert is completely captivating as Beatrice’s mother Valentine, and fits like a latex glove into her relationship with her daughter.
Dead Man Down could have easily been a middle-of-the-road crime thriller that gets dumped in the March slot. There’s warts to be sure, but all of the elements come together to create a neat little action-thriller that’s in some ways original. It’s smartly scripted, expertly directed, and acted just fine that raises it above a good number of its competition.