Dead Man Down (2013)

Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Dominic Cooper, Terrence Howard
In New York City, a crime lord's right-hand man is seduced by a woman seeking retribution.
While the fine cast keeps Dead Man Down watchable throughout, the film is weighted down by absurd plot twists and a slack pace.
  • FilmDistrict Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 08 Mar 2013 Released:
  • 09 Jul 2013 DVD Release:
  • $10.9M Box office:

All subtitles:



Trailer:

lemon chicken10/10
In the seemingly police-less gangland, Dead Man Down takes you through a labyrinth of visually distinct fascinating characters in an existential approach to both the dilemmas of revenge an their consequences. The action is not superfluous and hollow, but done in a way where each beat is well orchestrated with both real purpose and visual panache.

Through the "doll like" character Beatrice and her adjacent complex neighbor Victor, this film manages to portray an engrossing romantic angle highlighted by its believability through the shear awkward yet genuineness of their interactions. After the tonal shift of the reveal there becomes a form dark energy of rapidness that engulfs them. The eyes of Beatrice become dark and manic, full of pain, culminating in an iconic car sequence of dizzying passion.

Alphonse is a very convincing crime lord at the edge of his mental ropes. In a certain scene you can see the instability as his character while he sits in the shadows eying Victor like a shark as he walks into the frame. An effective rendition of a classy character in command after working their way to the top having to once again become savage in order to remain atop his hill. With his main goons we have Killroy the seven foot tall muscular man with the deep booming voice, Terry the skinny tattoo covered man, and Darcy the smart friend of Vicker who becomes the scariest character in his on right.

This film has the pacing and build like an old crime film, complete with dramatic emotionally spilling performances down to its very ending note. The dialog and characters are so fascinating that when the violence begins occurring you generally care about them. The message is not one glorifying revenge as many films succumb to, but one showing the results of their outcome, which the film has many variations of each character must deal with on their own. This film is an original Neo Noir and a complex brooding character piece strung together with the dazzling imagery of humanity and laced through fragile ephemeral happiness. The kind of film that has become a rarity at the box office. Fantastic performances all around.
A fascinatingly grim look at revenge and, less commonly, the aftermath.5/10
The revenge genre is often a tired one. The majority are either so sullen that they lose sight of what makes these fantasies entertaining or too silly to offer any glimpse of realism or consequence. "Dead Man Down" offers just the right amount of grittiness to be taken seriously, but also maintains its own identity with a heavy focus on character development and a more philosophical viewpoint on the nature of getting even. The vengeful gangster and his plight may be a repetitive backstory, but the cryptic structuring, attention to emotion, and competent acting strengthens the refreshingly fluctuating twists. While the conclusion digresses into a prosaic, albeit satisfying action sequence, it doesn't dilute the antiheros' uniquely warped relationship or their infectiously harsh personalities.

When crime lord Alphonse's (Terence Howard) men begin turning up murdered, along with enigmatic clues elaborating on the responsible party, the gangster looks to his henchmen Victor (Colin Farrell) and Darcy (Dominic Cooper) for answers. But Victor has his own plans, including a labored revenge scheme against those that wronged him in the past. As he steadily brings his complex machinations to fruition, he starts an unlikely relationship with his neighbor, Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), an emotionally damaged woman with desires just as ominous as his. Forced into a vicious cycle of vengeance, Victor must attempt to not only satisfy his demons but also salvage the soul of his newfound companion.

Adorned with an impossibly generic title, "Dead Man Down" is unexpectedly an absorbingly unique revenge fantasy. Devoid of the typical action, adventure, and beauteous damsels-in-distress, it is instead a morbidly dark, fascinatingly grim look at revenge and, less commonly, the aftermath. The emotions experienced by the hateful, the murderous, and the defensive are scrutinized beyond the normal array of purely evil entities undergoing deserved comeuppance. Nothing is black and white in the film – instead, every character is tinged with complications and questionable qualities, making this group of antiheroes unpredictable, sympathetic, or repugnant in alternating turns.

It's rare to see a crime thriller spend so much time on character development. It's also quite welcome – the ulterior motives, extortive attitudes, and sabotage aren't awkwardly spontaneous but rather sensible operations for generously analyzed mentalities. These aren't cardboard cutouts; and excessive dialogue doesn't make up for lack of substance. Instead, director Niels Arden Oplev opts for prolonged, brooding facial communications that convey much more than stale words. It's a feat for Farrell to be so convincing as an implacable gangster (his best role since "In Bruges") and Rapace is sensational as an equally bitter survivor who literally wears the scars of mental anguish on her face. Howard is one of the few weak spots, once again taking a sinister role and making it apprehensive. And although the climax embodies the raging, explosive visualization of suspenseful retribution that audiences crave (a contrasting culmination for the sake of crowd-pleasing action), it's the contrived satisfaction "Dead Man Down" needs to soften the blow of such a severe, serious series of retaliations.

- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)
American Neo-Noir meets romantic European fable7/10
He looks out the window in the night sky after a long day's work, thinking of what has become of himself. Across his apartment balcony, in the window of the building opposite his, stares a woman, solemn, pained. Their eyes meet, and, slowly, they wave at each other. Not a word was spoken.

Subtle scenes like these evoke memories of the raw power of film - it is emotion, not words or sometimes action - that drive a motion picture. Thing is, Vic is a thug working for a ruthless mobster; and Beatrice is a traumatized victim of a car accident. The subtlety will not last long, but it does make healthy re-appearances.

Niels Arden Oplev's "Dead Man Down" is the English-language debut (third this year overall following two Korean efforts) of the Swedish filmmaker famous for the original "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" film. He even brought along his star Noomi Rapace for the ride. It is a joy to see a modern filmmaker who cares for and loves his characters as much as the audience expects themselves to, that we are invested in them strongly and want to see them succeed. He crafts the film with love, as the cinematography gracefully dances around the characters, as if it was a complex ballet intrigue and hidden motives. Do we really want to right that wrong? Will it be worth it in the end? For us and for our loved ones?

The movie is, first and foremost, a revenge thriller. But surprisingly, it is also a compelling love story. From the moment the film opens we are thrust into the urban jungle of New York City (accentuated with a moody and atmospheric score by Jacob Groth, composer of the original "Millennium" trilogy), but with a poignant yet meaningful statement by Vic's friend Darcy (Cooper). Writer J.H. Wyman uses strands of earlier revenge films, twisty film-noirs and the classic melodramatic romance of earlier Hollywood films and incorporated them into his screenplay. Oplev transforms the screenplay, with such passionate energy and inventiveness, that the whole film somehow resembles a classic romantic European fable - sort of like this big tough warrior who falls in love with a wounded soul in a far-away and dangerous land, and both become kindred spirits. It is engrossing and captivating to watch the characters actually become real human beings, instead of being caricatures. This is a film where the characters' decisions affects what happens next.

The film would not succeed had it not been for the two leads, Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace, followed by a strong and diverse supporting cast. Farrell is strong as Vic, big, tough but withdrawn and solemn, slowly hiding away his anguish and rage towards his real enemy. Rapace, an actress whom I'm starting to grow fond of, is quite wonderful as Beatrice, who is traumatized but is still capable of captivating the lonely Vic. She walks and talks with unease, but there are times where she switches gears and becomes intensely aggressive in her true goal, where it will reveal is eating her up slowly but surely. The strong chemistry between the duo make the movie much, much better than it was intended.

The rest of the cast consists of Terrence Howard as a deliciously ruthless and intimidating as the villain Alphonse (watch the scene where he confronts Vic in a dark apartment room, with backlighting in Paul Cameron's cinematography brilliantly capturing the essence of noir), Dominic Cooper giving Darcy a human and realistic portrayal of a stock crime film character, and brief but warmly welcome appearances of F. Murray Abraham and Isabelle Huppert.

This is a movie which has something for both guys and gals. Guys will go for the gritty story and the obligatory "Colin Farrell kicks ass" scenes, especially the violent climax. Women would go just to see Farrell the romantic, and the compelling chemistry between the two leads are enough to make them swoon over. But the film is so well made, the characters and story strongly developed and very compelling enough to hold my attention for two hours, that really, you couldn't ask for a more well rounded revenge thriller of late. This is a movie which actually is a real movie, instead of feeling like a movie or being a commercial/stunt/SFX reel. Kudos to especially Oplev, Farrell and Rapace for making a strong, real film about lovable characters.

No doubt the marketing for the film is way off (as an action thriller, as usual) and reveals quite too much. Doesn't matter. "Dead Man Down" is the finest and most meaningful revenge film in years.
An intelligent thriller that takes its time dishing out retribution.8/10
Dead Man Down is a surprise and an exceptionally rewarding viewing experience. This is an intelligent thriller packed with action that takes its time to unfold and finally wanders off into the sunset leaving the viewer invigorated and satisfied, but ready for another bout.

Victor (Colin Farrell) is a player in in gangland kingpin Alphonse's (Terrence Howard) empire and, though he gives the appearance of being Alphonse's right-hand man, his intentions towards the crime lord are decidedly darker. Meanwhile, the girl in the apartment opposite, Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), watches him dispatch an adversary and blackmails him into dishing out a generous serving of retribution that she herself is unable (or unwilling) to administer.

Neils Arden Oplev (the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and currently shooting Stephen King's Under the Dome) peels back layer after layer to reveal ever-rawer characters and emotions in Dead Man Down. It isn't just about unfolding the story, though he does so beautifully, it is more about filling out the characters carefully so that we understand what makes them tick. No, what makes them angry.

There are some severely damaged characters on display here but their emotions, their actions, come across as not just understandable but entirely justified. Forget petty crooks with violent whims, Victor and Beatrice have given serious thought to their revenge but that doesn't make them shallow or irredeemable.

While Victor bubbles along in a coldly, organized manner, Beatrice rages under her skin. On the surface she is the cool cat but the confusion, the maelstrom of rage, bitterness and loss, swirls within her so that she is potentially dangerous to herself and Victor. It is tempting to use the old cliche of both Farrell and Rapace 'never being better' but it isn't true in her case; she is frequently this good, even if the films don't always match her talent. In Farrell's case, he has so many under-performing films (London Boulevard, Tigerland) and the odd turkey (Total Recall) on his CV that it is easy to forget that he is generally on very fine form. Don't believe me? Look again at Phone Booth, In Bruges…

Howard has a reputation in the industry of being 'difficult' (note the recasting of Colonel Rhodes in the Iron Man sequels) but his body of work is extraordinary and the intensity of his performance in Dead Man Down makes it blindingly obvious why he's a good bet on screen. There's no Nicolas Cage-type ranting, just a considered, quiet violence to his Alphonse.

Dominic Cooper slips along in Dead Man Down, not at all unremarkable, but just another fine actor and a superbly cast film. As Darcy, another of Alphonse's mob and friend of the traitorous Victor, he comes across as a good(ish) guy who's unfortunate to be caught up in entirely the wrong job in the wrong place at the wrong time. He doesn't steal scenes here but he fills them out, he completes them, knowing his place in the hierarchy of the mob and his billing in the film.

Oplev has crafted a very fine thriller indeed. The drama excites, the explosions scorch the skin but what makes Dead Man Down stand above so many others in the genre (I'm talking to you, Welcome to the Punch) is not the ramped up action but the stillness and the time and care he takes over his characters and the setting of the atmosphere. He allows us time to enjoy the clinking of ice-cubes in glasses as Victor and Beatrice consider each other and, strangely for a director of an action flick, allows the dialogue to do the talking rather than the gunshots and the car chases.

Dead Man Down is at times gentle but always thrilling and the pauses in the action don't ever detract from the pace. Conversely, they make it more intense and a film that truly deserves to register at the box office in spite of the big-buck, megastar vehicles of Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness. I fear it will be another 'underperforming' film on Farrell's CV, but don't for a minute confuse that with being a flop. The dead man might be down but he definitely isn't out.

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Well Beyond What Most Hollywood Films Think They Are...9/10
I honestly had to sit in contemplative amazement for few minutes after watching this film just to digest how well it was done. Every scene delivered a certain level of excellence that was surpassed by the next simply by building levels of uncertainty while carrying the story forward with almost an anticipated reluctance of sorts. Of the many thousands of action movies I've seen in the last 30 years, I would put this in the top 5. Astonishing directing, set design, acting, and a brooding atmosphere that works, mixed with a romantic/revenge tale of crossed messages born of emotional extremes in a multi-context of meanings.

It's a movie that never loses sight of what it originally intends, nor does it pander to taste or pretend to be better than it is. The script is solid and seamless. There are some shortcomings as to continuity and perspective of a linear timeline, but there is SO much emotion in even the smallest scenes as to make this almost trivial. I believe this is a masterpiece of directing overall that goes far beyond the mediocre nature of even the best of Hollywood's action films. It has a passionate heart with a brutal honesty that involves vulnerability conflicting with its own desire for the desolation of complete resolve regardless of circumstance.

When you see a movie of this quality, it is certainly difficult to put another one in the DVD player. Just like graduating high school makes it impossible to want to repeat the 11th grade.