Stunt Granny Movie Review: Dead Man Down

DEAD-MAN-DOWN-International-Poster

Dead Man Down is easily the best of the WWE produced films but that also goes with the understanding that it really doesn’t mean anything. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev who gave us the tremendous version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and written by J.H. Wyman, the film follows the usual path of most revenge capers. It doesn’t break any new ground along the way but it does provide near two hours of entertainment.

Inevitably Oplevs next movie was going to be compared with Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and while this was nowhere near the quality it is a solid addition to his short film work.  There are some similarities between the two movies through the characters. Both Colin Farrell’s Victor and Noomi Rapace’s Beatrice are damaged people. Beatrice bears the brunt of her damage by the scaring on her face that masks her emotional damage. Victor hides his damage behind a quiet disposition that masks his plans for revenge.

Farrell was a real surprise. He barely speaks in the movie but you are able to read his anguish and as the movie moves along his slow loss of control. His sluggish body language allowed you to see that he is slowly getting in over his head. His confidence, as we see through the films running time, slowly erodes. It is only when faced with being forced to care and forced to live again do we see him reemerge. Most of this happens with little to no dialogue.

Noomi Rapace (Full disclosure I have a huge crush on this woman) is just solid like she is in every movie. She is the physically and psychologically damaged contrast to Farrell. As he is able to hide her issues the fresh scars on her face make it near impossible. I did find myself thinking during the film that the makeup job should have been a tad more grisly.  It didn’t need to be Elephant Man style grotesque but it didn’t appear to be much of an issue. Some further exploration as to her struggle is necessary here. It would have tied the audience in in more emotionally after having seen some of her struggle.  The struggle that she went through physically but then the struggle clearly turned internal. We received glimpses of her psyche in this respect but not enough.  Rapace though plays the character with enough sweetness that you overlook the vengeful characteristics she has deeply rooted in her soul. Her quick turn in the beginning of the movie is jarring and unexpected and this is after seeing the trailer and knowing what was coming.

This was part of the film I really enjoyed. You know exactly what you are watching. Oplev doesn’t drag out the story with red herrings and misdirection. There is intrigue of course and some very good suspense but you never feel as if he is wandering down unnecessary territory. When the moment dictates he slows things down without spoon-feeding. When it is time for the action the scenes are swift and tight. No wasted chases and no wasted dialogue.

The real problem with the movie is the flimsy villains. The Arayan gang is your collective of bald, mean men with guns. There is nothign else about them.Terrence Howard’s character Alphonse, is undefined. At one point he is “the boss” but it is a shell as he has no real power. He is a business man without a business. He isn’t menacing, he isn’t diabolical, he isn’t provocative; he is just there. Everything bad about Alphonse is relayed to the audience instead of allowing us to experiencing his misdeeds and ruthlessness. Outside one violent moment we never see him as the heinous person we are told. Yes his actions, as we are told, are terrible but without witnessing anything more from the character it fails to resonate.

Since WWE does have its film division listed in the production credits I need to mention WWE star Wade Barrett’s performance. It is pretty much exactly what you would expect. He is one of the muscle men in the gang. He doesn’t seem out of place at all and really that is a compliment. He blends in and just appears to be another extra/actor. The most noteworthy part of his character is the spectacular death he receives.

Overall, Dead Man Down was exactly as expected. A tight drama disguised as an action movie. It rises up based on the performance of its two lead characters and is driven with precision by Niels Arden Oplev. In lesser hands this could have been a much different movie. Sure there are your typical predictable moments but it feels natural so you can accept it. Was it worth the $21.00 for two tickets? Ehh, maybe not but it will definitely be worth watching when released for home viewing. -Jeremy

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