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Dead Man Down - Review

Dead Man Down

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

NIELS Arden Oplev, the director of the original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, makes his English-language debut with smart revenge thriller, Dead Man Down.

Successfully combining tried and tested genre elements with several quirks, the film also benefits from a number of strong performances and a keen visual style.

It may not be as action packed as its trailer suggests but the film’s slow burn approach means that when the gun-play and explosions eventually kick off, you’ll care about what’s going on and who lives and dies.

The story follows a man named Victor (Colin Farrell) who has infiltrated a gang led by the viciously paranoid Alphonse (Terrence Howard) in the hope of gaining revenge for the deaths of his family.

His mission is complicated, however, by the emergence of scarred neighbour Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), who tries to blackmail him into targeting a drunk driver who caused the accident which disfigured her and ‘ruined’ her life. An unlikely relationship between the two of them eventually develops that could also compromise Victor’s revenge mission.

Oplev’s film may operate within a familiar framework but it also has fun toying with viewers’ expectations and benefits from taking time to explore the characters and their intricate relationships.

As such, the cast don’t ever feel wasted. Farrell and Rapace, especially, get to invest their characters with a great deal of complexity with Rapace, in particular, standing out as the wounded Beatrice, whose desire for her own kind of revenge quite often clouds her judgement and blinds her to what’s in front of her.

Farrell, too, mixes ruthless determination with hurt and anxiety… a man haunted by his past and present, whose deeds constantly find him at odds with his own ethics.

But there’s notable support from the likes of Howard (suitably cold-blooded), Dominic Cooper (as another gang member with his eye on climbing the ladder) and Isabelle Huppert (suitably kooky as Beatrice’s mother).

Oplev, for his part, keeps the story suitably tightly wound so that the various deceptions and double crosses have time to play out and make an impact, thereby keeping the viewer hooked even throughout the film’s quieter moments. Crucially, he never loses sight of the emotional complexities at play, either, meaning that Dead Man Down engages the heart too.

And when those aforementioned fireworks begin, the director delivers a grand finale that genuinely exhilarates.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 118mins
UK Release Date: May 3, 2013