March 18, 2013

Movie Review: Dead Man Down

It was just a few short years ago that I found myself debating an hour long drive to see some two and a half hour long Swedish thriller called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I has never heard of it, knew nothing about it, but I am so glad that I decided to take that drive. The movie was absolutely fantastic. It was that experience that gave me high hopes for Dead Man Down. Why? Well, it reunited the director and star of that film for the director's first English language film. This film was directed by Niels Arden Oplev and stars The original Tattoo girl, Noomi Rapace.

In the weeks leading up to its release, Dead Man Down seemed to primarily fly under the radar. I do not recall seeing all that much of a media presence and when I saw the trailer, I somehow always forgot what the thing was called. It doesn't change the fact that as soon as I recognized what it was, I knew I had to see it.

Unfortunately, I was out of town enjoying a weekend getaway at a horror convention and was unable to see it opening weekend. This also kept me away from any buzz regarding its reception. Needless to say, I was a little surprised when I exited the theater and tweeted my positive reactions only to get an agreeing response that mentioned not understanding the hate the movie has gotten. Frankly, I was oblivious to any reaction, good or bad, that the film had garnered and could not really understand it not being liked. Granted, I did not love it like I had hoped, but I did really like it and have no qualms recommending this movie.

Dead Man Down is an effectively straightforward tale of revenge and it's consequences. It is a movie that moves at its own, deliberate pace (read=slow), but that is hardly a problem when you have two captivating protagonists as you do here. There is an unconventional sizzle between Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace that helps propel the story. It may to move with all that much speed or do much to disguise the twists, but like I said about a film earlier this year, not all movies need twists. Sometimes stories just need to move in a straight line, have faith in the characters and the emotional investment to carry you through.

Victor (Farrell) is he right hand man to a gangster named Alphonse (Terrance Howard). The organization is facing an anonymous threat, as someone wants to set up Alphonse and is not letting anyone get in his way. He is also struggling to deal with the loss of his wife and daughter. Meanwhile, a woman, Beatrice (Rapace) in the building across from Victor's has shown some interested in meeting the man. During their first date, Beatrice's true motives are revealed. She witnessed him kill a man and has evidence she will give to the police unless he kills the drunk driver who caused the accident that scarred her face.

It doesn't take long to figure out who wants to kill who and why. This is not the interesting part of our story. What makes the story work as well as it does are the characters of Victor and Beatrice. These two carry the emotional weight and are rather interesting individually and as a couple. They are both deeply damaged people struggling to regain or retain their humanity, seeking to make a connection.

It is obvious early on that Victor is the man behind the attacks on Alphonse. This is really not much of a spoiler as it is an element that helps drive our character study of this man who has little else to lose. However, his life changes when he finds that connection to Beatrice and is forced to reevaluate his end game and the possibility that he may be able to find a reason to live. At the same time he initially agrees to help her with her desired hit, but he knows she is no a killer and rise to reconcile the effect it could have on her.

Beatrice is also an interesting character. She is a character of contradictions. She is presented as somewhat self centered and driven by vanity. However, while i can understand the frustration she may have, her desire to have revenge comes from a different place than Victor's. It is interesting to see the contrast between her and Victor and the paths they take that lead to the conclusion. They are not the same people come the climax. They have have been irreversibly changed by their actions and what they ave seem.

Dead Man Down is a stylishly made film. It is a movie that never fully took off, but it maintains a distinct level of interest. It presented these interesting characters who have gone through a lot and are unable to find their way out except through each other. It is definitely worth seeing, just don't expect much from the plot, this movie is all about the lead characters, their damages, their desires, their needs.


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