Revenge relishes in torment when director of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Niels Arden Oplev, brings euro crime thriller style to New York City and the dark side of the immigrant experience.
For this reviewer it was such a refreshing experience to be dropped into the middle of this unraveling situation, left in hostile territory attempting to gain your bearings. A NYC gangster (Terrence Howard) is being haunted by someone he has slighted. Victor (Colin Farrell) is a mole, orchestrating these intricate plans from inside the gangster’s crew. That is until his literally and figuratively scarred neighbour (Noomi Rapace) sees something she shouldn’t and puts the plans in jeopardy.
There’s no Statue of Liberty or warm Soho streets in Oplev’s New York. There’s a steely cold to some rarely seen New York landscapes like sparse tenements and cold ship yards. And instead of the New York dialects on show there’s a large majority of the characters speaking english as a second language. Instead of gangsters that dominate this landscape, the vengeful mole sends incites paranoia with photographs of his every move, and clues to his identity gift wrapped with dead lackeys.
At its core Dead Man Down is about being haunted by the demons of your past. Farrell’s Victor (nee Laslo) was a blissfully content father, husband and engineer whose principles put him on a collision course with these organised stand over men. When he barely survives an attempt on his life, that his wife and little girl don’t survive, he architects their demise with inch perfect precision. Farrell is cold, focused and his usual fervour and bravado is drained away by the festering wounds of his history. Rapace is a beautician who has been horrifically scarred at the hands of a drunk driver. Rapace taps into cerebral and physical torment like you and I tie our shoes, but she’s also able to show a fragility that she and Oplev denied Lisbeth Salander in the Millenium Series.
The characterisations of some of the gangsters are clunky and there’s a distracting side-plot featuring Dominic Cooper that hammers home the inherent power of the family unit that’s made well made without by the story itself.
Dead Man Down is Oplev demonstrating the same great cinematic sense he did with Millenium Series, and that revenge is never a straight line, it’s a thorny bramble.
and a half
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.