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July 9, 2013

On DVD/Blu-ray – Review: Dead Man Down (2013)

by NIR SHALEV

Dead Man Down (2013)

Victor (Colin Farrell) is an enforcer for mob boss Alphonse Hoyt (Terrence Howard), who currently works on wiping out the Jamaicans in a gang war. Alphonse had been receiving fragments of photos in the mail and is systematically wiping out anyone who would possibly have a reason to send him those photos. But not before questioning them, of course.

In the pecking order just below Victor is Darcy (Dominic Cooper). Darcy’s job is to investigate the reasons for the photo fragments, what they mean, and come up with the names of anyone Alphonse had a history with, possibly outside of the current gang war.

When I initially watched the trailer to this film, none of the above details were present. What I saw was that Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) was once in a car accident that had deformed half of her face. The man responsible had got off without serving even a day in prison and so Beatrice follows Victor around, making sure that he’s the man that she want to use in order to extract revenge. She blackmails Victor using camera phone photos and he reluctantly agrees to help her, while fighting off the notion of simply murdering her. I immediately thought of the criminally underrated film Mr. Brooks (2007), in which Kevin Costner plays a serial killer who is, one night, caught in the act and then blackmailed. Luckily the two films couldn’t be further apart.

Victor is the man who’s sending Alphonse the photo fragments (for reason better left undisclosed) and the film clues the audience in while still in the first act, because it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out and it would be a very lame plot twist if played as a plot twist. Beatrice doesn’t know about Victor’s “good side” and the task that she’d assigned Victor with might be detrimental to the success of his revenge scheme. However, he’s excellent at keeping emotions and motivations separated. The two of them develop a sort of relationship but the screenplay never lets it become a true relationship or even a clichéd one.

Then there’s the whole Red Harvest/Yojimbo development in which Victor manages to start a gang war. The plot grows more complex but the pacing of the screenplay allows for a long development time and not only does this plot aspect make sense, it is developed thoroughly and without being rushed. The third act is a tad too “actiony” for my taste but doesn’t ruin any aspect of the film, really. It actually kinda sorta of fits and there’s still more character development to be had, mostly between Victor and Darcy.

Dead Man Down has a remarkably deceiving trailer because this is simply a really, really good dramatic thriller and not an action film like the trailer showcases. I like all of the characters in the film, even the really bad guys, and I most especially like Cooper’s Darcy. Dominic Cooper is growing into a force to be reckoned with as an actor, and Farrell, Rapace, and Howard also deliver excellent performances. Director Niels Arden Oplev is a good dramatic director, as seen in his previous film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009), and he gets really good performances from his actors.

While the critics didn’t love Dead Man Down and claim that its pacing is significantly off, they are wrong. And for the last time I blame the trailer for that. This is a well paced film because it focuses on characters’ actions, knows when and how to deliver good action sequences, and doesn’t contain absurd plot twists. The performances are excellent and the film maintains a fitting somber mood throughout it. It’s a terrific film for a good night in, and especially for those that are growing tired of Hollywood blockbusters that take over the summer. Dramas like this are more than welcome.

From what I could find online, the only extras are a few making-of short features.

NEW RELEASES FOR JULY 9, 2013

Admission

The Gatekeepers

The Host

Spring Breakers

Tyler Perry’s Temptation


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