Dead Man Down Review

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Victor (Farrell) has infiltrated a gang led by Alphonse (Howard), intent on avenging the deaths of his family. Beatrice (Rapace), Victor’s neighbour, tries to blackmail him into targeting a drunk driver who caused an accident which disfigured her.


A New York-set thriller with an interesting, international cast, this opens with a feint that suggests it’s going to be a version of The Long Good Friday, as a cool criminal who tries to conduct himself like a businessman finds a dead minion in his freezer and is rattled by an ongoing campaign of persecution which is rocking his mini-empire.

Terrence Howard is great as the Bob Hoskins figure, sleazily well-dressed and descending to hysterical cruelty, relying only on the lieutenant who saves his life in a shoot-out. Then the viewpoint shifts to Colin Farrell’s efficient gangland enforcer, who has more than enough secrets of his own to cover up, but still takes time to have a first date with the girl in the flat opposite. She looks pretty from across a courtyard but turns out to be scarred (inside and out) and have her own maniac agenda, which complicates his own and makes him question where his plan is leading.

This is the first English-language work from Danish director Niels Arden Oplev, who made an international impact with the Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; he brings along Noomi Rapace, the original Lisbeth Salander, and gives her a much better role than she has had in bigger English-language films like Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows and Prometheus, even if there’s a sense lurking in the background that J. H. Wyman’s complex script might play even better if rewritten so Rapace and Farrell could switch roles. However, Farrell, as reliably good in medium-budget quirky crime as he is reliably flat in anything more expensive, does wounded noir sensitivity with a side-order of righteous fury very well, as if fusing Montgomery Clift with Lee Marvin. Rapace starts with focused dementia (the canny make-up scars her without making her less sexy) and blossoms in an affecting manner, which shows (as did the Norwegian ghost/psycho story Babycall) that she can be great outside her signature Lisbeth role.

A pleasingly intricate double (or is it triple?) revenge plot anchored by excellent acting, with a terrific burst of action at the climax.