(NEW YORK) -- Dead Man Down stars Colin Farrell as Victor, who at first glance is a faithful henchman for New York City gangster named Alphonse, played by Terrence Howard. How faithful is Victor? During a raid on a rival’s drug den and after shooting their boss in the head, an unarmed Alphonse is cornered by four men with their weapons aimed at his head. Victor, though shot himself, wills himself into a position to be able to shoot all four men and save Alphonse’s life.
Quiet and brooding, Victor lives alone. In the building across the way from his apartment lives Beatrice, portrayed by Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Beatrice is beautiful but the left side of her face has been disfigured by a car accident. She watches Victor from across the way doing mundane things like vacuuming. He notices. They wave. She writes him a note. He takes her out to dinner.
Turns out neither Beatrice nor Victor is who they appear to be. Victor in particular isn't quite as loyal to Alphonse as he acts. When Beatrice learns why, she threatens to expose him unless Victor helps her exact her own revenge for something that happened in her past.
In Dead Man Down, Rapace is reunited with her Girl with the Dragon Tattoo director Niels Arden Oplev, making his English language film debut. In one way, it doesn’t matter that English isn't Arden Oplev’s first language, because he's clearly fluent in the language of cinema. As ridiculous as this story gets -- and it gets pretty ridiculous -- he lets the pictures do the talking. Oplev captures earnest performances from Farrell and Rapace, most notably when the two are on the screen together sharing intimate moments (and I don’t mean love or sex). This director has a knack for intimacy even when filming a long shot, looking down from 20 stories above.
Then again, it may indeed matter that English isn't Oplev's his first language, because he clearly didn’t seem to spot some major flaws in the script. All of his good work is wasted on a final act that seems so far removed from a film that showed so much promise in the first 20 minutes, it’s a wonder how anybody involved with Dead Man Down actually thought this was a complete, fully-realized story that would appeal to and satisfy anyone over the age of 12. And that might be insulting to some 12-year-olds.
Attempting to root your film in realism, only to blow it up with inconceivable, head-scratching action sequences, I suppose is Hollywood business as usual. But it’s just so disappointing when talented filmmakers and actors collaborate for what wind up being second-rate clichés.
Two out of five stars.
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