Dead Man Down

by Jake Mulligan

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday March 8, 2013

Colin Farrell in ’Dead Man Down"
Colin Farrell in ’Dead Man Down"  (Source:FilmDistrict)

We've all been feeling pretty vengeful these last few years. Or, at least, that's what our box office receipts suggest. Constantly we've gotten these wannabe-soliloquies on the subject: Quentin Tarantino regards it a necessary evil. To Park Chan-Wook, it's an endeavor that robs one of his or her humanity. To every superhero movie ever made, it's a cause for celebration. But to Niels Arden Opev, the helmer behind the original "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and now behind "Dead Man Down," it's none of the above. It's nothing at all; just the MacGuffin behind a movie that fails miserably at figuring out what it's supposed to be.

Colin Farrell - who used to have impeccable taste in scripts but who now, between this and "Total Recall," seems to be saying "fuck it" - stars as Victor. Seemingly the right-hand man in Alphonse's (Terrence Howard,) drug running/big gunning gang, he spends the first act of the film doing a sub-par Ryan Gosling impression, all introspective and "mysterious" (sorry, Colin, I love you; but you don't stare like Ryan stares.) It's for reasons that later will be explained in excruciatingly boring detail. See, this is the type of movie where the murderous stalker sends his prey pieces of a jigsaw puzzle until finally in the 2nd act they get the final piece and everything is revealed. Even by Hollywood standards, this is pretty dumb.

What probably started as an experiment in style and excess ended up an under-thought disaster.

To give away the film's slowly unfurled mystery would be to invalidate its only hope at entertainment. So I'll just skip over the rote mystery developments (you can see the shocking twists - someone's out for revenge! - yourself,) and instead note that I don't even know what universe this movie takes place in. Farrell and his crew engage in firefights in the middle of the streets, hang each other from 5th story windows, and shoot up entire apartment buildings; and not a single cop ever enters. Yet Opev films the whole film with a cold blue sheen, and resists surrealism (which the script honestly suggests) at every turn. I can't decide if it's the least realistic crime movie ever made or if it's the most pedestrian fever dream I've ever witnessed. What probably started as an experiment in style and excess ended up an under-thought disaster.

And since he never even bothered to decide what planet this movie takes place on, you know Opev never actually decided what "Dead Man Down" is all about. And so it's just whatever he needs it to be at a given point in time. Sometimes it's a dumb American action movie, to a ridiculous extent - complete with slow-motion shootouts where cocaine and dollar bills and bloodshed flow freely to amped-up dub step beats like so much machismo porn. But then it's Farrell and original-Lisbeth Salander Noomi Rapace (done up with facial scars, because everyone needs to have a revenge subplot in this type of movie) failing to communicate across their balcony, complete with long pan shots, like a 3rd-rate Antonioni rip-off. Then it's a Chan-wook style take on the soul-eroding nature of vengeance, drowning in self-seriousness. Then it's just a dumb American action movie again (seriously, this ends like a "Death Wish" sequel).

Sometimes international filmmakers come to America and bring their style along with them. Some adapt to the Hollywood house aesthetic. But this movie's so bad, and so clichťd, that I can't help but ask if Opev filmed it as satire. "Dead Man Down" is so ridiculously stupid and stereotypically American that you can't help but wonder: is he making fun of us?