‘Dead Man Down’ Movie Review – The Girl with the Scarred Face
Revenge doesn’t always equal justice. In fact, some would argue revenge doesn’t EVER equal justice. Niels Arden Oplev’s Dead Man Down would irritate these people to no end because both main characters are trying for justice by exacting revenge. Maybe it’d right the wrongs if the film focused on tackling this revenge vs. justice question better. However, the circumstances – specifically the characters played by Noomi Rapace and Terrence Howard – don’t make this question worthy of an entire film.
After an unspeakable tragedy, Victor (Colin Farrell) joins the gang responsible for his wrongdoings. With revenge fueling his actions, he decides to rise up the ranks and take down the major kingpin (Howard). Side-by-side, Beatrice (Rapace), a drunk driver victim, uses her knowledge of Victor’s plan to help settle her debts. She essentially blackmails Victor into getting justice (or revenge, I guess) on the drunk driver that has made her a “monster.”
“Monster” is in quotations because she’s the most beautiful monster. Rapace, who has Oplev to thank for her stardom (she played the origial Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), is unfortunately a distraction in this role. She’s not a strong character, and she doesn’t really have any business being in this movie, other than being the token love interest.
Speaking of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this material is a sort of rehash of that story…except the character’s conflicts are largely implied (and it’s missing Lisbeth’s dynamic character). Personally, one of the major problems I have with most films is the inability to be subtle. It’s okay to give the audience one plus one, but you don’t have to necessarily tell them the answer. That was originally a smarter quote by a (probably) smarter person, but you get the point. It’s not the storyteller’s job to tell you exactly what to think.
Dead Man Down lacks all subtlety.
This is also seen in how the movie views death. It’s pretty obvious from the beginning the movie’s agenda doesn’t value life as much as it probably should. This is an interesting choice because the whole thing is about death.
The movie does succeed in some ways, though. As a strict neo-noir, the tone and color scheme is spot-on. Farrell plays his character the truest of all, too. With some of his past performances, it’d be easy to see him as a more charismatic and charming guy. However, he’s more of the stone-cold revenge seeker he should be.
It’s just too bad the aforementioned Rapace and the woefully inconsistent Howard couldn’t add to the story. Howard goes long stretches without making an appearance, and it’s really hard to root for or against him when you know nothing about him.
Part of me feels bad I didn’t like Dead Man Down more. I wanted to like it very badly, but when you take away as much subjectivity as possible, it’s simply not that strong of a movie. Sure, it’s got the neo-noir vibe going on, but it ultimately comes down to the characters. With inconsistent and downright unnecessary characters, the narrative is less about revenge and justice, which is such a rich dilemma in and of itself.
Dead Man Down is open in wide release now. Check your local listings for a showtime near you!
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