So, we’ve made it through February and March and it’s now time to start ramping up towards blockbuster season.The level of talent in films is getting cranked up, the casts are a little more robust, and overall the films should be getting better. Please notice and put the emphasis on the word “should” in that statement. I need an explanation for what happened in the film Dead Man Down. If I were to tell you nothing more than Terrence Howard, Noomi Rapace, Colin Farrell and F Murray Abraham these actors alone should drive you to the box office. Sadly, Dead Man Down is no more than a Redbox rental, if that.
The story may be the film’s strongest suit, unfortunately it is riddled with plot points too easily taken upon by the characters and follows an all too familiar paint by numbers approach to movies. Dead Man Down tells the story of an organized crime member bent on revenge for the death of his wife and daughter. Along the way Victor, played by Colin Farrell, meets Beatrice, Noomi Rapace, who is on her own path towards revenge. The two click and Dead Man Down is action cinema at its most awkward.
The Good. This film has a lot of potential. For an evening rental sitting around the house it is definitely serviceable. The acting is decent by some of the players. Noomi Rapace does a great job playing the damsel in the distress and Terrence Howard feels comfortable as the crime boss trying to keep footing in his district. At times Colin Farrell is convincing as the devoted father and husband hell bent on revenge. How the two main characters meet is an interesting but almost all too convenient way of setting up the film. The twists and turns are predictable and you aren’t shocked by any plot line the story takes. In essence, this film is too safe for the depth of story it is trying to portray, but at least the viewers aren’t left with confusion as to why a character takes the path they have chosen.
The Bad. Glaringly obvious to the viewers is the beauty of Noomi Rapace. Sadly, she is supposed to be a woman whose life was destroyed by an accident at the hands of a drunk driver which left her so horribly scarred that she is considered a monster and becomes a shut in. Where was hair and makeup in this film? Noomi has a few hairline scars on the left side of her face, but she is still beautiful. It isn’t because I see the inner beauty in this poor woman. It is because the creators didn’t want to miss selling the film based on her sex appeal. So much so that the movie poster intentionally shows her from the side without the scars to pull you in. Take a different turn. Give her a prosthetic leg or dead arm. Don’t try to sell us a woman disfigured by a car accident by applying a few marks that do nothing to hinder her appearance. Unless the point is to say that this woman is so vain as to not see the beauty she possesses. This theory falls apart when the neighborhood kids follow her around calling her monster and throw stuff at her. I don’t know what they were thinking.
Secondly, the protagonists friend in the crime family is Darcy, Dominic Cooper, whose character is focused on climbing the ranks in the mob. He is determined to be the guy that pieces together who is playing games with and ultimately tries to kill his mob boss. The clues to this assassin are almost laughably laid out for Darcy to connect the dots, especially considering events that take place which should have signaled cause for the assassin to take a different approach. The purpose for this weak subplot is to build suspense and move the story along, unfortunately it makes the story painfully superficial. If Darcy was this good at cracking the case he should have been a homicide detective and not a low tier thug in a crime syndicate.
I didn’t want to discuss Victor’s background, but since it is a major plot point I guess I will. Victor is a Hungarian born character who came to the States with his family hoping for a better life. He works hard to disguise his Hungarian accent to avoid detection by the crime families. Colin Farrell is Irish. With a heavy Irish accent, that is evident in almost every film he makes. Why not rewrite the film as an Irishman that came to America? Why force an actor with a thick, Irish accent to portray a man with a hidden Hungarian one? This makes no sense and is laughable at times with his true voice comes out.
Finally, one of my biggest pet peeves in film making is the continuity department. These guys are tasked with making sure things don’t appear where they shouldn’t If someone has a watch stolen from them the character should not be wearing it in later scenes. When the hero takes a punch in the face the scar should be on the correct side ten minutes later. In Dead Man Down the passenger side window of the Victor’s car gets shot out. In every scene after that the window is clearly there. The film takes place in a matter of days and Victor is way too busy to have gotten his car serviced to correct the problem. In some cases this may seem like a minor flaw but the film sets up the window being broken in a “dramatic” scene. They make a point of shattering the glass. Evidently this was the last scene they filmed because the truck is a major set piece throughout the film and the window is glaringly existent throughout.
The film is pretty. The locations fit the story the movie is trying to tell, and work well to build intensity and drama except for the final scene. The actors are correctly cast in each role and at time are even believable as the character they create.
This film is very superficial. It fails every time it tries to take itself seriously. The plot devices are weak and the story doesn’t make the viewer feel anything for the characters. It isn’t the worst I have seen and with a few tweaks it could be a decent little film.
3 out of 5
Dead Man Down scores a 6 out of 10. Definitely not movie theater worthy, but for $1.28 at Redbox or watching on HBO or Showtime it works.