Dead Man Down

In Films by David Watson

Slick crime boss Alphonse (Terrence Howard) isn’t having the best of days.  Someone is playing mind games with him, sending him cryptic threats, and now his most trusted men are turning up dead.  During a violent shoot-out with the Jamaican gang he believes is responsible, his life is saved by enforcer Victor (Colin Farrell).

But Victor is not who he seems; he’s actually a Hungarian immigrant named Lazlo and saving Alphonse’s life is all part of his plan to gain his trust.  Two years earlier, Alphonse and his men were responsible for the murder of Victor’s wife and daughter and he’s spent the time since slowly infiltrating Alphonse’s gang and plotting his elaborate revenge.

As Victor’s best bud Darcy (Dominic Cooper) investigates the source of the threats, Victor is increasingly drawn to his quiet, damaged, scar-faced neighbour, Beatrice (Noomi Rapace).  Beatrice is haunted by her own demons however and wants Victor’s help, blackmailing him into murdering the drunk driver who almost killed her and ended her career as a beautician.  With Darcy getting closer to uncovering his true identity and his complex relationship with Beatrice deepening, Victor is forced to put the final part of his plan in motion…

Disjointed and more fun than it should be, Dead Man Down feels like the not wholly satisfying illegitimate offspring of Rear Window and The Revenger’s Tragedy as Farrell’s Victor strangles and snipes his fellow hitmen while kidnapping a gangster’s brother and feeding him alive to some starving rats in order to set two rival gangs against each other.  As a robust gangster/revenge flick, Dead Man Down just about works thanks to Farrell’s committed, soulful turn (even if his Hungarian accent is more Ballykissangel than Budapest) and the action scenes, particular the confused opening drug den shoot-out and the climactic gun battle, are exciting and thrillingly visceral even if the action man heroics are somewhat at odds with the downbeat, noirish moodiness the film’s worked hard to cultivate.

Less successful however is the Rear Window plot strand featuring Noomi Rapace’s scarred beauty therapist and voyeur.  Sure, Colin might be drawn to tragedy but you can’t help but think he could definitely do better than Noomi so their romance never really rings true and there’s little chemistry between them.  Truth be told, there’s far more sexual chemistry between Colin and Dominic Cooper’s BFF Darcy (What kinda gangster calls himself Darcy?) than between Farrell and Rapace and it’s mildly disappointing when Victor and Darcy don’t fall into each other’s arms after the final fadeout.

With workmanlike, unflashy direction by Danish director Niels Arden Oplev (who previously gave us Noomi Rapace as Lesbian Goth Avenger Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With The iPad) and good performances from all concerned, Dead Man Down is a decent, if uneven, slice of hardboiled romantic fun.