Noomi Rapace reunites with Niels Arden Oplev, who directed her in the 2009 Swedish film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Oplev makes his American theatrical debut with Dead Man Down and although there are definite similarities in the two films, Dead Man Down is significantly worse than his acclaimed Dragon Tattoo.
Victor (Colin Farrell) is a low-level mob enforcer who works with mob boss Alphonse (Terrence Howard). Beatrice (Rapace) is a former beautician, who was brutally scarred in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Victor and Beatrice live in the same apartment building just outside of New York City and the two casually flirt from balcony to balcony until Beatrice works up enough courage to send him a pick-up note.
Eventually Victor and Beatrice go out on a first date, an awkward first date where Victor mumbles a few words. After the date, Beatrice reveals that she knows what Victor does for a living and threatens to turn him into the cops unless he helps her with something. Beatrice wants Victor to kill the drunk driver that ruined her life and left half of her face marked with scars.
Beatrice’s story is manipulative and far-fetched. She is complaining about how terrible her life is now, even though behind all the scaring, she’s still quite beautiful. There are actually scenes where kids throw rocks at her and call her “monster,” which is so over-the-top and dumb. It seems as if screenwriter J.H. Wyman (“Fringe”) just threw this in there so that the audience would feel sorry for her, but it actually has an opposite effect.
The main problem with Dead Man Down is its convoluted plot. There is too much going on with several different characters and the screenplay doesn’t allow the audience to care for its lead character, Victor. He is seeking revenge, but that doesn’t mean the audience is going to walk away caring whether or not he gets his revenge. I certainly didn’t anyway.
The movie is an hour and 50 minutes, but feels much longer. The beginning is intriguing, the last action scene is fantastic, but the middle drags for much longer than it should. Going back and forth between Farrell, Rapace and Howard’s storylines, there never feels like there is one central character in Dead Man Down. The film suffers because it’s not sure what it is: a thriller, mystery, action flick or romance. If the screenplay allowed a steady tonal shift between each of the stories, then we would’ve had a winner here.
In 1993 director Tony Scott and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino combined multiple genres rather well when they made True Romance. The violent, yet romantic film worked because the audience cared about the lead characters and Tarantino knows how to blend the different genres together to create a balanced film. Oplev’s Dead Man Down is all over the place and doesn’t have a center. Thankfully Farrell and Rapace have excellent chemistry, which keeps the film afloat tremendously, but their story should have been more central than Farrell’s boring revenge one.
Noomi Rapace fans will have fun watching her play a character that slightly mirrors the crazy in Lisbeth Salander, but the film is unbearably long and filled with too many uninteresting characters.