2 1/2 StarsDead Man Down is a deadly serious movie, about serious people, doing serious things. The melancholy mood set early weighs on the story until the hardboiled crime thriller threatens to turn overwrought along the path to its conclusion. Danish director Niels Arden Oplev, re-teaming with his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace, has crafted a modern noir with overt shades of European new wave cinematic storytelling. That sensibility works for the film in the stark opening passages, where the audience must piece things together quickly with virtually zero exposition or initiation.
Terence Howard plays a paranoid gangster, who has recently received a troubling set of photographs from an anonymous source. The continued arrival of new images and letters, drives the thug mad as he viciously rips through his opposition then inside his inner circle, in an effort to drive out the culprit. Colin Farrell is a low-level enforcer, who works as part of Howard’s crew. He starts a brief romance with his neighbor (Rapace) that exposes the truth behind both their motivations.
The plot twist come in droves as the serpentine screenplay works itself through a simple story made complicated for no apparent reason. Would this story be worth telling, if it had been told in a more linear style? The final scenes devolve into a shoot-out with Farrell wielding machine guns and blowing people away. It’s a jarring ending to what to that point had been a slow-burn. There are so many rich moments in Dead Man Down that I award it a recommendation, but I’m wrestling with that.
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Stars: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard