‘Dead Man Down’ Review
Dead Man Down is the rare thriller that is both grippingly suspenseful and visually stunning. It crackles with energy, most of which is generated by the taut performances from Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace—both in peak form. The sparse dialogue makes every word all the more potent, and the script itself is as remarkable as the finely tuned action and suspense. Dead Man Down is more than just a riveting thriller, though. It’s also an intimate portrait of two broken people looking for retribution.
At first glance, Dead Man Down is a dark, gritty, noir-infused crime drama that follows a man named Victor (Colin Farrell) who infiltrates a crime lord’s inner circle in order to exact his revenge. Farrell brings the same dark intensity that he brought to his role as a tortured hit man in In Bruges. The rest of the cast—which includes Terrence Howard and Dominic Cooper—deliver excellent performances as well.
Director Niels Arden Oplev (the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) brings his art-house pulp aesthetic to the film. I was surprised by how mesmerizing—even beautiful at times—the cinematography was. I’m not typically one to admire action scenes, but I can recall at least one scene in Dead Man Down that looked like a well-orchestrated ballet of gunshots and fisticuffs.
Once you look past the blood and the violence, you find that Dead Man Down is really about connecting. Victor and his neighbor Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) begin their relationship as partners in revenge, but through their mutual grief, they develop a kind of strained intimacy that neither of them knows how to handle. Their relationship is a far cry from your typical action movie throwaway romance, but the awkward attraction between them is the emotional core of the film, balancing out the sometimes disjointed revenge plot.
I’m sure some would argue that this film is too schizophrenic, unsure whether it wants to be a noir thriller or an introspective character study, but in my opinion that’s what makes it great. It succeeds in being more than one thing. As a culture, we’re obsessed with categorization. Everything has to fit neatly into a box: “comedy,” “romance,” “horror,” etc. I commend any work that attempts to defy the restrictions of these conventions. Dead Man Down might not be flawless in its execution of this concept, but for anyone who enjoys a tense thriller that also contemplates the nature of humanity, you won’t be disappointed by Dead Man Down.
*Don’t forget to check out my interview with Dead Man Down writer/producer Joel Wyman here.