Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace star in “Dead Man Down,” a movie with delusions of grandeur of Shakespearean proportions.
Victor (Farrell) saves his boss, crime-lord Alphonse (Terrence Howard), during a shake-up, where Alphonse accuses a thug of sending mysterious threats in the mail. We quickly find out — in the silliest of ways —- that Victor is behind the death notes.
Victor’s across-the-street neighbor, Beatrice, talks him into a date, and afterward, leads him to the door of the man who disfigured her in a drunken driving accident. Beatrice says she’ll use a video she took of Victor strangling someone in his apartment as blackmail unless he kills the man responsible for her plight.
This is the most heavy-hitting scene of “Dead Man Down.” Actress Rapace goes from 0 to 100 in 20 seconds, as does this movie that’s all about the heat of vengeance.
Beatrice seeks retribution for her disfigurement, and Victor’s lust for blood stems from the loss of his wife and daughter at the call of Alphonse. Rapace and Farrell play their parts at a level that feels sedated compared to previous roles, and they reveal their deepest motivations at an almost comical pace.
On their second meeting, Victor, who has been orchestrating Alphonse’s demise for years, dumps everything on Beatrice in a matter of minutes. Beatrice follows Victor on his various raids around town. Their connection cements, but the execution feels implausible. The rest of “Dead Man Down” plays out a bit predictably and melodramatically, as Beatrice and Victor fall in love that may or may not be consummated.
Supporting players are a bit wasted. Terrence Howard doesn’t deliver as a crime boss. French mega-actress Isabelle Huppert stands in as Beatrice’s live-in mother, and Dominic Cooper stumbles about as Darcy, Victor’s gangster sidekick who’s trying to solve the mail mystery for Alphonse. Huppert is a powerhouse actress, but there was little to no time for her to shine. Actor Cooper did his part, which culminates in a standoff between him and Victor that falls flat.
“Dead Man Down” may lack a bit in plot execution, but I was taken with the set designs and music. Victor and Beatrice’s apartments felt foreign, and that made their crime world feel like a slight throwback to “The Professional.” Props for the music selected as a backdrop to action sequences, which director Niels Arden Oplev did pretty up to par. Aside from that, I wasn’t thrilled with this film.
“Dead Man Down” has a solid idea: Two seek redemption with vengeance-heavy hearts. But clocking in at almost two hours, the film doesn’t develop this enough for a viewer to invest in their fates. And personally, I checked out about an hour in.
Available: Amazon Prime (purchase), Netflix Instant.
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