Thursday 9 May 2013

Review: Dead Man Down

Year: 2013
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Screenplay: J.H. Wyman
Starring: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper

Synopsis is here

"You were expecting art" I was told by my podcast cast co-host after this shambolic viewing of Dead Man Down. A statement not even worth a response in my view. If I'm going into a film with a title such as this, with the knowledge that the film is produced by World Wrestling Entertainment Films, I know I'm not getting "art". When comments such as the aforementioned a thrown around, it's often used as an excuse not to engage with any of a films flaws. No, I was not expecting something that would inspire revolution. I was expecting B movie thrills. Unfortunately I was awestruck by the dullness that inhabited Dead Man Down, I found it hard to find any spark of enjoyment.

Dead Man Down is one of those movies in which is rooted down with such silliness, you realise that the film itself comes to a standstill if you were to try and rip out its problems. Characters must continue with their stupidity in order for the film to function. Characters act dumb while the audience are near yelling at the obvious. To think that a crime boss, who rose up the ranks and is now being elaborately threatened, can act so blind around those around him, cries foul. But to suggest this; means the film no longer ceases to be.

I may be looking at this the wrong way, but I don't think so. Right from the start we have the drop on the characters ahead of time. We have no suspense or tension. There's no anticipation because we're clear steps ahead of the game. We are waiting for a cast who is fair to good for the material to finish the puzzle you completed yesterday. And we are doing this at a snail’s pace. 

Director Niels Arden Oplev may be riding on his credentials gained from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but that film thrives on the energy of its outlandish plot and the forcefulness of its female protagonist; Lisbeth Salander, played by Rapace. Here Oplev's muse is diluted from complex construct to damaged damsel with little to do other than look pretty and helpless. The scars placed on Rapace's face by the makeup artists do little to deter her sex appeal, or convince of any serious disfigurement, no matter what the neighbourhood kids say. 

Oplev had a fun mystery to pull apart with Dragon Tattoo. Here he only has a pensive Colin Farrell furrowing his brow so hard, you could plant potatoes in the lines. The tale of revenge that takes place here is formulaic and boring, and save for the film’s final set piece at its climax, there is little to take note of. 

Films like this need a certain amount of urgency. If not, bored viewers may tug at it its frayed edges and tear it apart. I had more fun trying to guess which wrestlers had bit parts as hired goons. I didn't expect "art" but the best B movies are entrenched in their genre enough to be subversive, outrageous or smart. Dead Man Down does none of these things. But the least it could have been is exciting.