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Dead Man Down Review: Exactly What You Think It Is, and That's Kinda Great

By Amanda Mae Meyncke | Film | March 8, 2013 |

By Amanda Mae Meyncke | Film | March 8, 2013 |

Dead Man Down drops you right in the middle of a mystery, with a cold blooded murder and a killer who loves to send clues to his upcoming victims. What follows is nearly two hours of solid story, fast paced action, tepid romance, and adequate acting, all of which adds up to an unexpectedly good movie. A perfect appetizer to the blockbusters of summer, Dead Man Down presents us with a reliable, no-frills thriller that works no harder than it has to, arriving exactly where you think it might, just when you hope it will.

The plot has some excellent twists and thrills, doubling back on itself several times as we’re introduced to Victor (Colin Farrell), a henchman for a crime lord, Alphonse Hoyt, (Terrence Howard) who is being stalked by an unknown assailant who seems to know a great deal about Hoyt’s affairs. Victor’s neighbor across the way, Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), has recently been in a car accident and was permanently disfigured. Her thirst for vengeance against the man who destroyed her is palpable, coursing through her veins. Though she’s hardly the monster she imagines herself to be, she enlists the help of Victor, and the two become entangled in each other’s lives and futures.

I’m a mooooooooooooooonsterrrrrrr!!

Surprisingly moving, the film goes along at a brisk pace, never lingering long enough for audiences to get bored, and never moving so quickly that we’re entirely lost. It’s also a fairly clean film, gun violence not withstanding, there’s a tiny bit of sex so brief it barely counts, and some swearing but not like Tarantino swearing. The search for vengeance and peace of mind provides remarkably compelling fodder for the story, and Farrell’s commitment to his task is admirable, even as it is a bit terrifying. Only people who believe they have no future act as the two leads do, and through working together towards their nihilistic goals, begin to realize that maybe there can be a life worth living, out there somewhere. Characters who really learn and change are a rarity, especially in such simple, fundamental ways.

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev, director of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and written by J.H. Wyman, writer of such TV shows as Fringe and Keen Eddie, the action is acceptably interesting and the dialogue flows naturally, with no stinker lines or nonsense. But again, this movie is merely adequate. Nothing special here. And that’s kind of what’s so great. It could have been directed by anybody, and written by anybody too. There’s nothing unique about either the direction or the script. Aren’t you tired of directors and writers doing like, quirky things so we know it’s them? Movie by committee, I say!

The acting is nothing remarkable to speak of, sadly enough. Colin Farrell’s go-to expression is wistfully mournful, his dear little eyebrows knitting together at the drop of a hat, and it’s sort of wildly endearing. Noomi Rapace is a fine choice as Victor’s quiet neighbor, Beatrice, though I wonder at the corner that she’s been written into, as a young woman so wrapped up in her looks that she has eyes for little else. (Also wardrobe chose to put her in belly shirts the entire time, and to tie up whatever longer shirts she ends up wearing into much, much shorter shirts. It looks kind of ridiculous, to be honest.)Terrence Howard is terrifying as always, quiet, calm and thoroughly menacing. Like I said, functional, no-frills performances that drive the plot home, gently kiss it goodnight and put it to bed.

The boys are back in town, the boys are back in town
The boys are back in town, the boys are back in town!

I would go through the roof if someone devoted a paragraph of their review to how beautiful and bangable an actress is, but seriously, Dominic Cooper can get it. I interviewed him for An Education, and actually, now that I remember it, made fun of his suit and then made fun of him for being in Mamma Mia. I get nervous when I like people, and then I make fun of them. Cooper did get the only laugh of the film, for me, (other than the suspenders he wears!) when he compares himself gleefully to Columbo. A thing of beauty is a joy forever, and I’ll take my Cooper in any form — British, gangstah or otherwise.

I thought this was going to be a sloppy pile of dreck, dumb and worthy of ridicule, but the film has such low goals that it hits its marks easily. In fact, it takes so few risks in any department that one begins to wonder if this is the future of film. Set the bar low. Set it so low, in fact, that you can perform your routine easily, without mistakes. Too often filmmakers strive for grandiose, enormous films and fail miserably. There’s something to be said for workhorse films such as this, though inevitably unremarkable, the two hours spent in its company are not a waste. Gritty, forgettable and quietly reflective, Dead Man Down is an actual pleasure to watch. Who’da thunk?