Dead Man Down is a perfectly serviceable B-movie with enough character and story developments and twists to keep its audience satisfied even though it never threatens to be anything above its station.
The screenplay starts nicely as the action begins three months into a plan set out by Victor (Colin Farrell), a gang member working for and hatching a plot against his boss (Terrence Howard) for the death of his wife and daughter. Victor has been sending sections of a photograph of him and his dead family to his boss as a ‘calling card’, patiently reeling him in and the thugs which carried out the murder. The film doesn’t waste any time in getting its story up and running which is a refreshing change from the need some films have to start from Point A and go to Point B, but conversely the meeting between Victor and his neighbour Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) does feel rushed to get to its purpose. They meet for only the first time and she blackmails Victor into killing the man who recently injured and scarred her in a drink and drive incident; the film needed to pace out this plot point to give the plot point more gravitas and weight. It feels crammed in and clumsy but thankfully the story is well paced thereafter which is its real selling point.
Dead Man Down could have come across as a straight-to-DVD picture if the relationship between Victor and Beatrice was not underlying the action and violence. Their need for each other is subtle and doesn’t suffer from too much exposition-filled narrative to explain how they feel and what they are willing to do for each other. This also marks the best leading role and quality of output for Colin Farrell since 2008’s In Bruges and suits his acting style because his days of being an A-list leading man are over (last year’s Total Recall was the final straw) and these smaller, low-profile films could see him return to some degree of quality output. Noomi Rapace is good in her role as the physically and emotionally scarred woman and is her best Hollywood film to date; not her fault but Prometheus was a major disappointment and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was a total and utter disaster.
The film’s resolution isn’t as satisfactory as hoped because the ensuing shootout and explosions doesn’t go with the carefully plotted cat-and-mouse game Victor has been planning up until this point. A more intelligent whilst still bloody and violent resolution could have been written (think the end of Enemy of the State for example) but in fairness to director Niels Arden Oplev (he of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) the action ending is well staged and doesn’t ruin the film completely, but it does dilute slightly the nice build up of the previous 100 minutes.
Dead Man Down ends up being a perfect recommendation for a rental if not good enough to spend £10 for a cinema viewing. Moreover, it’s a nice surprise for Colin Farrell fans and a good way to help forget he was ever in Total Recall.