wed 21/03/2018

Dead Man Down | reviews, news & interviews

Dead Man Down

Dead Man Down

Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace don't quite simmer in Scandily clad revenge thriller

The avengers: Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace in 'Dead Man Down'

In 2009 Niels Arden Oplev sent a lightning bolt through the multiplexes with his adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was only a matter of time before a magpie in Hollywood noticed. They duly went about the business of re-adapting the film for people who can’t read pesky subtitles, and now the director has been summoned over the water to make his English-language debut. Across from Sweden he’s brought a lucky charm in the form of Noomi Rapace, who in turn has brought Lisbeth Salander’s motivation: vengeance.

Not that we know this quite from the start. Lonesome gangster Victor (Colin Farrell) spots lonesome beautician Beatrice (Rapace) making eyes at him through the windows of the neighbouring high rise and they are soon on a tentative date, only for it to emerge that she has blackmail on her mind. The way you do, she has filmed Victor murdering someone in his apartment. The deal is that if he’ll waste the man who got off scot-free for ramming her car and scarring her pretty face for life, she’ll not shop him to the NYPD.

Light relief is supplied by Isabelle Huppert dispensing cookies in Tupperware. Not her finest hour

Coincidentally, Victor is incubating his own revenge on those who murdered his wife and daughter. Turns out Victor and family wouldn’t vacate a property when some crack-dealing hoodlums asked nicely, so they had to be got rid off. Unfortunately the scary Albanians sub-contracted to do the hit botched it. Victor, believed dead and buried, has infiltrated the gang and is plotting their destruction - and the Albanians' - while sending his intended victims piecemeal titbits about an avenger on their tail.

The conceit is that these two interlinked vengeance plots will tauten the fibres of the narrative to breaking point, but in fact they slacken it all but fatally. Victor seems very adept at killing - having been in the Hungarian military, he’s handy with guns, and dumping corpses in fridge-freezers, and hanging victims from office block windows. But it doesn't help the pace any that he’s not in a hurry to do the ultimate deed. An uncle in an ethnic hat (F Murray Abraham) keeps on telling him to get a shufti on. You wish scriptwriter JH Wyman had been listening.

Farrell and Rapace both play out their roles with unsmiling commitment and Terrence Howard (pictured above) does his best as the chief villain with nattier threads than dialogue. Light relief is supplied by Isabelle Huppert as Beatrice's deaf French mother dispensing cookies in Tupperware to soften Victor’s hardened heart. Not her finest hour. And Dominic Cooper sort of charms as an idiotic gang member with a paternal streak. “Even the most damaged heart can be mended,” he advises in a dreadfully misconceived opening voiceover. 

Dead Man Down has assembled a set of promising ingredients and proceeded to half-cook them: an oddball romance parboils on the hob next to a slow-burning revenge drama alongside a barely simmering action thriller. The trimmings of Scandi noir, shot by non-Nordic DoP Paul Cameron and squawkily soundtracked by Oplev’s regular composer Paul Groth, aren’t enough to season what feels like no more than a so-so hotchpotch.

Jasper Rees on Twitter

The conceit is that these two interlinked vengeance plots will tauten the fibres of the narrative to breaking point


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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