Niels Arden Oplev's neo noir Dead Man Down is a cut above the usual revenge action fare with solid performances - Dead Man Down Review

Posted by Craig Grobler on Google+ On Sunday, May 05, 2013

dead-man-down-reviewIs Dead Man Down a Nordic Noir influenced drama, or a slick action film? It's both - but I wish it wasn't. A couple of years ago I asked Noomi Rapace about the difference in styles between the two directors behind the adaptation of Stieg Larsson's  Millenium Trilogy, as part of her thoughts - she conveyed that it was sad that the original Director - Niels Arden Oplev didn't move forward with the sequels. I asked if she would work with him again - clearly a little surprised - she said "Yes, of course".

Well, with Dead Man Down Niels Arden Oplev the man behind the original Girl with The Dragon Tattoo reunites with Noomi Rapace for his first US feature film and the result leaves me happy they have.

 photo Dead_Man_Down_Film_Poster.jpg
Dead Man Down Film Poster
When the body of a gang member is discovered in the freezer of crime boss Alphonse’s (Terrence Howard) mansion – a clear message has been sent… or has it?


The Establishing Shot: DEAD MAN DOWN TRAILER HD - 3 MAY 2013

As the gang reacts, members Darcy (Dominic Cooper) and Victor (Colin Farrell) take it upon themselves to dig further into who is after Alphonse. As a further complication to the gang, neighbour Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) discovers Victor has a dark secret and contracts him into a scheme to seek out her own vengeance. With the violence escalating Alphonse begins to suspect that revenge is closer than he thought.

 photo Dead-Man-Down-Colin-Farrell-assassin.jpg
Dead Man Down Colin Farrell Assassin
Dead Man Down stars Colin Farrell (Total Recall, Seven Psychopaths), Noomi Rapace (PrometheusSherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows), Dominic Cooper (Devil’s Double) and Terrence Howard (Iron Man) and marks the American theatrical debut of director Niels Arden Oplev (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo).

Watching the trailer for Dead Man Down I wasn't too enamoured. The trailer, as slick as it is - gives away too much, and leaves little to surprise. Granted I can see Dead Man Down may be a tricky sell, so showing as much as possible in the trailer kind of hits all the denominators for for a wide audience, but I feel Dead Man Down deserves a bit more of a sophisticated pitch. It would have worked immeasurably better for me as a straight up drama with action added as a bonus rather than the action film with drama that it is being sold as. Which segways into the only issue I have with an otherwise outstanding crime drama.

The marrying up of drama with action didn't work for me. But it's not that simple as the highly improbable action scenes (with lots of gunplay and explosions) are technically brilliant, deftly handled and brilliantly shot, as the whole film is - but what Niels Arden Oplev excels at is crafting an outstanding neo noir drama and bringing exceptional performances out from his cast.

 photo Dead-Man-Down-gang-Luis-Da-Silva-Jr-Dominic-Cooper-Colin-Farrell--Terrence-Howard.jpg
Dead Man Down The Gang Luis Da Silva Jr, Dominic Cooper, Colin Farrell  & boss Terrence Howard
But the action scenes are so slick and implausible that they suck everything nearby into a blackhole of cliche, not only did it feel like the action brought the drama down, but it is like watching scenes from two different films cut together. If the action was toned down WWE Studios might have had an unequivocal 5 star drama on release - but I guess the return for action films is deemed considerably better than for solid dramas. In the interests of fairness I should mention my wife loved Dead Man Down and thought it was one of the best film she has seen this year.

 photo Dead-Man-Down-hostage-Colin-Farrell.jpg
Dead Man Down Albanian Hostage & Colin Farrell
Apart from that Oplev brings an outstanding crime drama to the screen with an engaging tale with real weight to the revenge elements allowing Colin Farrell to bring gravitas to his performance to the aggrieved Victor. Oplev also brings European sensibilities to the feel and tone of Dead Man Down which brings an additional depth and texture to the story elevating it, due in no small part to Cinematographer Paul Cameron's exciting camera work and former Oplev colleague Jacob Groth's compelling score which is used to great minimalist  effect both as ambience and noticeably absent  when not - much like Hitchcock' use of light and shadow.

 photo Dead-Man-Down-Colin-Farrell-graveyard.jpg
Dead Man Down Colin Farrell in a graveyard

Another element that shines is Oplev's use of New York, his location work gives the scenery a life of its own and lets the story feel like it's happening in a vibrant city rather than just a backdrop or set that could be anywhere.

I have to say I think Colin Farrell has been getting a bit of a raw deal of late, clearly he is talented, but for some reason usually ends up with material that either doesn't play to his strengths or is the cinematic equivalent of bubble gum, during the first 3/4s of Dead Man Down I was thinking f*ck yea! Finally a film I can root for Colin Farrell and his talent (the final quarter is pretty much all gunfire and explosions). He is outstanding as Victor a wounded gangland enforcer and brings both depth and purpose to the role.

 photo Dead-Man-Down-Noomi-Rapace-Colin-Farrell.jpg
Dead Man Down Noomi Rapace & Colin Farrell

It took me a little while to get into the chemistry between Farrell and Noomi Rapace's Beatrice, a beautician with her own baggage. But this has more to do with the intentional plot arc that takes you along with it as the weave of the story and the characters roll out.

 photo Dead-Man-Down-Luis-Da-Silva-Jr-Terrence-Howard.jpg
Dead Man Down Luis Da Silva Jr & Terrence Howard
Both Farrell and Rapace deliver solid performances as does Terrence Howard as a powerhouse crime boss Alphonse and Dominic Cooper stand out as ambitious gang soldier Darcy. I have to say it was a pleasure to see both Isabelle Huppert and F. Murray Abraham on screen in dramatic roles even though their appearances are too brief.

Dead Man Down is in cinemas from 3 May 2013
In New York City, a crime lord's right-hand man is seduced by a woman seeking retribution.

Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Writer: J.H. Wyman
Stars: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard


The Establishing Shot
Interact with us here: @TheEstShot or Facebook Comments and thoughts always welcome below.


Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

On the RADAR


I really enjoyed Johannes Roberts' gripping & taut shark attack thrill ride 47 Metres Down - FILM REVIEW

Christopher Nolan & Emma Thomas introduce their modern classic DUNKIRK and answer some questions about DUNKIRK - EVENT REPORT

The Game of Thrones: Touring Exhibition is coming to London - UPCOMING EXHIBITION

I visit the BT Tower for the riveting Fear The Walking Dead Season 3 pre-premiere launch - EVENT REPORT

In Cinemas this week


The 2017 EE BAFTA Nominations announced

Matthew McConaughey introduces GOLD and tells us a little bit about the film

xXx: Return of Xander Cage European Premiere EVENT REPORT
Richard Kelly talks the Making of Donnie Darko
Alex Zane Presents the FDA Autumn/Winter Film Preview & chats with Tom Conti
The Light Between The Oceans Press Conference
De Palma Review
Prop Store Auction Preview Exhibition
Idris Elba suprises us at Star Trek Beyond
The Nice Guys Surprise Us
Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review
10 Criminally underrated British Crime Films you probably haven't seen yet
Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Batmobile
In discussion the making of Triple 9
Deadpool Film Review
Quentin Tarantino talks The Hateful Eight
Star Wars Visions Exhibition Tokyo
SalonQP 2015 Preview
The Rogues Gallery Creation of a Super Villian Book Launch
Legend Press Conference
SPECTRE all the news
No Escape Review
Ant-Man Euoropean Press Conference
Batman: Arkham Knight Cape & Cowl Exhibition London
Ant-Man Willard Wigan Micro Exhibition
Unheard James Bond Themes
Peyton Reed & Paul Rudd introduce Marvel's Ant-Man
Knight of Cups Trailer Breakdown

Latest Film & TV News

Latest reviews:

Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review
Triple 9 Review
Deadpool Film Review
The Hateful Eight Review
Legend Review
No Escape Review
Mr. Holmes Review
The Grandmaster Review
Dawn of The Planet of The Apes Review
The Drop Film Review
300: Rise of an Empire
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review

Craig Says...


Legend of the East End Exhibition

135 Bethnal Green Rd,E2,
28 Aug - 11 Sep 2015
the alibi film club

The Alibi Cult Film Club

The Alibi ,Dalston, E8 2PB
Every Mon

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London The Making of Harry Potter

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London The Making of Harry Potter

Harry Potter Tour

WB Studios, Leavesden
April 2014+

Bond in Motion Exhibition

Bond in Motion at London Film Museum

Bond in Motion London

London Film Museum
21 March 2014+

TheEstShot Listening To:

Craig's Awesome Mix