Dead Man Down Review

Film Still
  • Dead Man Down film still


Nordic noir goes mainstream in this efficient assassin caper with Colin Farrell on autopilot.

Judging from her recent work and choices so far, original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace feels less the captivating screen sensation and increasingly the one-trick pony.

Supported here by Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper and Isabelle Huppert, you may well come to Niels Arden Oplev’s pulp thriller, Dead Man Down, with the blithe hope there’s crackpot genre entertainment to be had. What we’re treated to, in fact, is an overstuffed farrago that glimpses – though never quite lands on – the shores of turkey.

Supposedly set during the glorious height of summer, the chilly ambience is rather odd. It’s a vision of New York that doesn’t pander to tourist-style establishing shots of recognisable attractions. Iconic bridges and skyscrapers are present in the distant background. This photographic understatement, however, does not invest Dead Man Down with anything unique or inviting. A foreigner’s cinematographic eye is supposed to reveal fresh detail unseen by locals, but here, blandness creeps in. Why set the story in the Big Apple if you’re going to ignore it?

Farrell’s choice of project can sometimes feel akin to a man closing his eyes tight, throwing a dart in the vicinity of a pile of scripts, and where it lands – that’s a bingo! His performance as Victor, a damaged family man forced to take revenge against foes from the past, is dialled in. Elsewhere, living legend Huppert is criminally wasted in a pointless extended cameo that requires her to bake cookies and make cheeky comments.

The film’s biggest problem is its lead actress. Rapace’s emoting is at times comical. Her chief modes of expression are wide-eyed innocence and sullen. It’s a shame because the first meeting between Beatrice (Rapace) and Victor captures a fatalistic vibe that hints at the character as a domineering harridan à la Ann Savage in Edgar Ulmer's cheapjack classic, Detour.

She’s played, instead, as a broken winged bird looking for a saviour. It’s a cop out. As screen pairings go, the Swedish star and the Irish heart-throb produce all the heat and intensity of a dwindling barbeque fire left out in the rain.

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