Film review: ‘Dead Man Down’

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Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace star in “Dead Man Down.”
Credit: John Baer

There are those who pick apart logic in movies, criticizing plot developments for not making real-world sense. There are also those who feel this is pointless, as one shouldn’t let outlandish, even impossible occurrences in a piece of fiction stand in the way of one’s enjoyment. Even “Vertigo” — the Greatest Film Ever Made, as per the most recent Sight & Sound poll — makes very little rational sense. But where does one draw the line? Perhaps around J.H. Wyman’s script for “Dead Man Down,” whose title isn’t even a saying.

Colin Farrell plays a hoodlum for a big NYC crime boss (Terrence Howard), who’s been fending off a mystery adversary. It turns out the adversary is Farrell himself, whose wife and daughter were murdered by Howard’s goons. Farrell has thus become a superhuman avenger, much like Gerard Butler in another absurdly ludicrous script, “Law Abiding Citizen.”

Alas, Farrell’s neighbor across the way (Noomi Rapace) knows his secret — he killed someone without drawing the blinds, wouldn’t you know — and instead of turning him in, blackmails him into murdering the drunk driver who left the left side of her face scarred. But will they, you know, fall in love?

“Dead Man Down” marks the Hollywood debut of director Nils Arden Oplev, who helmed the Swedish original of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” This time, Rapace doesn’t get a quality role as she did with Lisbeth Salander. Rapace’s character, a beautician rather than a pierced hacker, is scattershot and basically unplayable, though Rapace attacks it with a loopy commitment that becomes oddly affable. Her director gets the same deal: This is one dumb movie, but Oplev — whose “Tattoo” was a funereal slog — plays it as weird and lurid as possible. Rapace lives with her mom, played by (why not?) Isabelle Huppert, who seems convinced she’s in a silly movie where she prances about and makes cookies. This is the most inappropriate role the French ice queen has had since playing Steve Guttenberg’s affairee in “The Bedroom Window,” but her periodic appearances add a richer texture to a movie that would otherwise only be pretty stupid.

‘Dead Man Down’
Director: Nils Arden Oplev
Stars: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace
Rating: R
Grade: ➊➋


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