Dead Man Down

Filled with shady characters after vengeance or fortune, the film-noir genre has been enduringly popular.  Films such as ‘The Maltese Falcon’ and ‘Double Indemnity’ still sparkle with their plot twists and double-crosses.  Although little used of late, recent movies have dabbled in its seductive flavour.  ‘Dead Man Down’ does a fine job in updating this formula with mysterious women and crooked men battling against sinister forces existing within a deadly moral code.


Infiltrating the criminal empire of dangerous kingpin Alphonse (Terrence Howard), Victor (Colin Farrell) is out for revenge.  Determined to make him pay for killing his wife and daughter, Victor is hell-bent on destruction.  His plans are altered when he discovers he is being watched by next door neighbour Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) who manipulates Victor in settling a score of her own.  With two people consumed by rage, the explosive combination has the potential to spark all-out war.


‘Dead Man Down’ succeeds due to the depths of its characters.  Victor and Beatrice are damaged people trapped in a never-ending cycle of hate.  Only when they can be free of their destructive obsessions can they truly live again.  Their hesitation in destroying their enemies is often painful to view as they seem to realize they may have nothing left after their targets are gone.  These emotions are skilfully expressed by Farrell and Rapace who convey genuine chemistry.


Niels Arden Oplev’s direction effectively teases out the constant deadly atmosphere.  Having directed the Swedish version of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ to great heights, it should be no surprise he brings its feeling of pure menace to his first English language film.  Whilst certain aspects of the plot are murky in terms of some character’s actions, it never loses sight of their motivation or developing relationships.  The cinematography and action sequences aid in articulating their myriad of conflicting emotions.


Those who like stories with lots of twists and turns should enjoy ‘Dead Man Down’.  Although occasionally predictable, the performances and stylish direction make this ode to film-noir worth investigating.


Rating out of 10:  8

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