Thus far, 2013 has gotten off to a pretty lousy start. That's not to say there haven't been any movies that I liked but, most of the movies that have come out have either been crap or disappointments. Dead Man Down belongs in the latter. There have been plenty of great foreign directors who have made complete misfires as their American debuts but, that's not the case with director Niels Arden Oplev. It would be extremely unfair to label this as a misfire because it's far from it. I was just expecting more given the director and the fact that he reteamed with his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace. This is an above average revenge flick that could have been better had it not been for the disappointing ending.
The beginning opens strong, giving us a puzzle that the director reels us in with. It grabbed my attention and made me want to stay to see how the pieces of the puzzle will be put together. To explain the plot in full detail would give a few things away but, it's about a man named Victor (Colin Farrell) wanting to get revenge on the man who killed his family. That man happens to be his boss Alphonse (Terrence Howard), who he has been working with for over a year so he could get close, make him suffer like he did, and then kill him. While he's strangling one of his partners one night in his apartment he is spotted by a woman named Beatrice (Noomi Rapace). He doesn't know that she saw what he did until one night she asks him to go out. She blackmails him. She'll keep Victor's secret safe if he does something for her in return. She wants Victor to kill the man who ruined her face as a result from a car accident in which he was drunk and only served a minimum sentence. Then the plot takes unexpected turns toward a disappointing conclusion.
Though it may seem like your typical revenge flick, it's certainly not presented that way. The tone and pacing are given some European flavor but, it might not connect with American audiences as well as your more conventional revenge flick. Judging by its opening weekend estimate that seems to be the case, which is a shame. If you do plan on seeing Dead Man Down don't expect something that's going to be clear and easily digestible.
The acting is strong with Noomi Rapace surprisingly giving the weakest performance. That's not to say she was bad just, not as good as I hoped. Colin Farrell gives another great performance. Farrell is good at playing the quite, revenge-driven type. If he were in something with tighter material I'm sure the results would terrific. Both Farrell and Rapace share nice chemistry and I actually cared what happened to them in the end. They're just two broken people connecting with one another and it's believable. Terrence Howard is good at playing the menacing crime lord, too bad his character is extremely one dimensional. Isabelle Huppert gives a sweet performance as Beatrice's caring mother. I wish there were more scenes between her and Rapace since she was mostly the comic relief. The rest of the cast give respectable performances.
Now comes the ending. It's not Devil Inside bad but, it's disappointing. The movie builds up to what we're expecting to be an intelligent and suspenseful ending. Only to throw us out of left field and go toward a more typical action-oriented direction. It's not boring but, I was let down. Had it gone in the direction it was intending too I would have given it a higher rating.
Overall, this is an above average revenge story that gets weighted down by its disappointing ending. The villains are all one dimensional and sometimes the dialogue is embarrassing. However, the rest of the movie saves itself. The performances are great, the beginning starts on a high note, the story progresses at a nice pace that we're not normally use too, and the action is also well-shot so you don't need to worry about the camera shaking. Despite some of the faults, this movie is never boring and it's not like your conventional revenge tale which counts for something at least. I recommend Dead Man Down, but not as enthusiastically as I would have liked. See it when it's matinee or wait for it on DVD since it probably won't be staying in theaters for long.