DEAD MAN DOWN was one of the dozen films I bought for $1.99 at the departed BLOCKBUSTER, so I had much more invested in it than the .99¢ group (please note my sarcasm). What starts out as a great thriller with a fantastic premise, devolves into an overly long, tepid film that completely squanders most of the goodwill I had toward it.
Now mind you, I said “most of the good will.” The film still has its merits and was not a complete waste of time.
Victor (Colin Farrell) is a hitman for the mob working directly under Alphonse (Terrence Howard) who trusts him explicitly having saved his life on their last hit. Living across the courtyard from Victor is Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) who has been disfigured in an auto accident. They politely wave to one another across the expanse until she one day reaches out to him for a date.
I won’t ruin the amazing twist that ultimately makes them inseparable, but it really impressed me. Unfortunately, it soon gets watered down quite a bit by an overly complicated plot that not only makes the movie longer than it needs to be, but unfocused as well.
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev (who directed Rapace in the original THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO), the film has good look and has an equally great cast that includes Farrell,Rapace, Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper, Isabelle Huppert and Armand Assante. They all do a fine job though they also seems to be taking the material a little more seriously than it deserves and it at times boarders on melodramatic.
Another complaint is that even though the film is supposed to take place in the U.S. (New York or Chicago maybe), it looks like it was filmed in Europe with some choice U.S. exterior scenes to give the illusion of a hometown production. I may be wrong, but it sure felt that way.
DEAD MAN DOWN is a missed opportunity given its creative twist premise. It’s too bad the filmmakers couldn’t have trusted that the plot already had plenty of inherent thrills without having to jam in an entirely separate plot that divides the film and sucks out all of the tension. Sometimes less is more.