Director: Niels Arden Oplev
MPAA Rating: R
Studio: Automatik Entertainment / Frequency Films
At the nasty, dark heart of Dead Man Down is a twisted love story between an emotionally cut off mobster’s go-to guy and a facially scarred, vengeance-seeking woman.
It’s gritty, powerful stuff of the kind that, back in the ’40s or ’50s, might have caught the interest of a director like Fritz Lang or John Huston, who might have paired a hardboiled, snarly star like, say, Robert Ryan or Sterling Hayden with Barbara Stanwyck or Gloria Grahame. All these decades later, we instead have Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace talking tough and making hard lemonade out of withered lemons in this New York–set, noir-ish action thriller written by J. H. Wyman (Fringe) and directed by Niels Arden Oplev, the Dane who made the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Instead of being tight, mean and lean, though, the movie suffers both from cinematic ADD and occasional overdoses of Scorsese-ism.
It suffers even worse, though, when it moves away from Farrell’s tight-lipped, haunted character and Rapace’s gimlet-eyed, tender/tough woman of mystery to instead spend time with velvet-voiced bad guy Terrence Howard, hot-wired screwup Dominic Cooper (who’s very good) and, as Rapace’s mother, Isabelle Huppert (a great star wasted). Too much of the movie feels like a disconnected U.S./foreign coproduction whose makers are unsure of their target audience. Urban music energizes the music soundtrack one minute, then vanishes; the same with good actors like F. Murray Abraham and Armand Assante, who pop in for a scene or two, then are gone.
Considering, Rapace is particularly good and Farrell does nicely, too, in what is being called a neo-noir. But up against the memory of the giants of real noir, they fade to gray.