Dead Man Down keeps it complex

by Steven Ward


“Dead Man Down” is the story of two haunted and damaged loners drawn together by their mutual desire for vengeance against two different enemies.

The first of these loners, Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), is a beauty who was scarred in a car accident. Her only desire being to murder the drunk driver who hit her, since he got off with a slap on the wrist. Beatrice has saved the old newspaper clippings of the incident in a shoebox. Like so many of us who have been hurt, she sifts through them periodically; presumably to remind herself of the sole purpose she has given her life in the aftermath of the accident.

Victor (Collin Ferrell) is a professional thug whose apartment lies just across the street from Beatrice’s and boasts a secret room filed with numerous photos, maps, high-tech spy gear and other serial-killer-style paraphernalia. When he isn’t tirelessly maintaining his rugged, three days’ growth of stubble or working as a thug for his mobster boss (Terrence Howard), he spends his downtime watching intently home movies of an unknown woman and child—as well as plotting his coming retribution.

However, it is not clear who his intended victim is.

Writer J.H. Wyman and filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev (who directed Rapace in the original Swedish version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) introduce enough stylish eccentricity—and opaque plotting—to keep the plot moving forward, at least until the almost cliché bloodbath conclusion.

Up until then, “Dead Man Down” successfully keeps audiences (believably) on the edge of their seats, thanks mostly to its leading lady. In the similar fashion of her role as “Dragon Tattoo’s” Lisbeth Salander, Rapace brings a convincing intensity to a part that requires her to be a kind of whimsical psychopath. Instead going to therapy for her apparent array of issues, she blackmails Victor into becoming her own personal hit man after she witnesses him kill a stranger on his balcony

But it is this nonlinear, unpredictability of the movie’s cast and the fine line it walks between exaggerated reality and gritty drama that pushes it to the very edge of its genre as a full-throttle, action-packed thriller.