By Conrad Foreman, Daily Arts Writer
Published March 12, 2013
“Dead Man Down”
Quality 16 and Rave 20
Dead Man Down
At Quality 16 and Rave
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A drug lord with an exotic name, a beautiful, scarred (emotionally and literally) woman and a sexy Irishman — “Dead Man Down” has a lot to offer.
Victor (Colin Farrell, “Phone Booth”) is strong and silent, a muscle man for quasi-big-time drug dealer Alphonse (Terrence Howard, “Hustle and Flow”), who has been receiving letters for three months from a man who wants to kill him. Victor, of course, is that man, seeking vengeance for his wife and child using an alias from within the organization that caused their deaths. As the final act of Victor’s revenge nears, he begins to develop a relationship with his neighbor Beatrice (Noomi Rapace, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” teaming back up with director Niels Arden Oplev), who has revenge on her own mind, as well as a romantic interest in Victor.
Farrell, who doesn’t even say his first line until 15 minutes into the movie, is appropriately tough and soft-spoken in the lead role, but his character lacks emotion. If you were told Victor’s story, perhaps you would cry. But Victor never cries. In fact, Victor never shows much emotion at all, beyond flickers of smiles and distress. While this does make sense for his character (you’d probably become a little emotionally cut off too if your family had been murdered), it allows for little connection to be made between Victor and the audience. One of the features of great cinema is emotional investment in the characters, but “Dead Man Down” is lacking in this regard.
This film tries to have its cake and eat it, too: Victor is portrayed as cold and emotionless, a man hell-bent on getting his revenge without distractions; at the same time, the script forces a love story into the plot between Victor and Beatrice, facilitated by Beatrice’s mother, a hard-of-hearing elderly woman with a strong connection to her Tupperware, charmingly played by Isabelle Huppert (“Amour”). The relationship simply doesn’t develop at a natural pace, despite best efforts from Rapace and Farrell.
The story is paced well, never feeling rushed or boring, but there’s a little to be desired in the subplots of the film. One revolves around Victor’s best friend Darcy, who gives perhaps the best performance of the film (Dominic Cooper, “Captain America: The First Avenger”). Darcy also works for Alphonse, and is charged with discovering the identity behind the mysterious, threatening letter. As he draws closer, the tension of the film builds, but the plot would’ve been better served if it gave more focus to the process of his investigation. How did he know to look in the Hungarian section of the cemetery, huh?
“Dead Man Down” is entertaining and enjoyable. The director and actors all play their parts admirably, but the script doesn’t allow the story to achieve its full potential because of its slightly details, a slightly forced romance and an ending that doesn’t fit the tone of the first hour and a half of the film.