Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Dead Man Down


Dead Man Down (2013) Revenge! Sounds so good when you think about it, but if you’re really going to do it, in the most extreme possible ways, it may not be as easy as you thought it would be.

Noomi Rapace’s face has been disfigured in a car accident by a drunk driver, who only got a three-week jail sentence. She got over a year of reconstructive surgery and a hideous band of little kids in the neighborhood who shout “Monster!” and throw rocks at her. She wants somebody to off the motherfucker.

(I have to say that I found her make-up somewhat less than horrifying. Even in the trailer I thought she looked a lot more disfigured. Sure, I know they can do wonders these days with plastic surgery, but the idea was that she should look bad. Not Phantom-of-the Opera bad, but enough to startle you. I couldn’t see her as someone so awful-looking that little kids would throw rocks. The movie would have been more effective if she had looked worse.)

She finds her killer in Colin Farrell, a man who lives in the next high-rise across from her, who she one day witnesses strangling a man to death. They form a silent friendship at first, waving at each other, then going out to dinner. Later, she threatens to turn him over to the cops if he doesn’t kill the drunk. She isn’t worried much about the fact that he might kill her instead; she isn’t afraid of dying anymore.

But she gets a lot more than she bargained for. In one of several unlikely twists, he turns out to be even more into revenge than she is. His young daughter was killed by a gangster (Terrence Howard) trying to scare him and his family out of their building. When he and his wife look like they’re going to testify, he has them killed, too. Only he’s not quite dead. So Colin finagles his way into the organization with the intent of killing them. All of them. But first, for reasons that I guess made sense to him, he wants to fuck with their minds. He’s picking them off one or two at a time, and sending Howard and his Latvian rival (who Terence hired to do the actual killing) bits of a puzzle. So for once we’re rooting for the psycho serial killer. Because, really, only a psycho would make his revenge plan so elaborate, don’t you think?

I can say that we had fun. There’s big killing scenes at the beginning and at the end, not too gory by today’s standards. It does tend to lag a bit in the middle, but good acting by Noomi and Colin kept it all going. I wouldn’t dream of recommending it to anyone, though, except as a guilty pleasure. It is ridden with unlikely events and plot holes, and is probably a lot more complicated than it needed to be, but again, not all that horrible by today’s standards. It was directed by Niels Arden Oplev, his first film since the terrific Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, also starring Noomi. He has complained that the film was not edited to his satisfaction.