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‘Dead Man Down’

August 2, 2013

A gangster is recruited by an accident victim to get revenge on the drunk driver who ran her down, but all is not what it seems in this dramatic chiller from the director of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”


I missed this one in theaters for a very good reason — it was marketed as an action movie that appeared to want to be a thriller. I opted to avoid it, as it didn’t look like a very good action flick.


It turns out that I was correct (a rare occasion, so let me savor it). The film only has one legitimate action sequence. It is actually a drama/thriller that succeeds on both counts.


Ir starts off like a Hitchcock movie, with a friendship developing between two strangers, who live in opposing high rises. One is Victor. We know he works for a charismatic thug named Alphonse. The other is Beatrice. She stays home most of the time between surgeries to correct the various abrasions she suffered after being in a wreck caused by a drunk driver.


After some time, Victor receives a postcard with Bea’s number on it. He calls her up and the pair begin a tentative friendship. Eventually, Bea reveals that she has a video of Victor strangling a man to death in his flat. Turns out Beatrice wants the man who hurt her to suffer, and she wants Victor to be the instrument of her wrath.


Blackmail normally puts a strain on any relationship, but Victor is happy to help out and we soon learn why. We find he is a Hungarian immigrant who lost his family to killers working for Alphonse. He wants revenge, too, and has steadily been working his way into Alphonse’s group while carrying out an intricate plan to kill the dozen or so men who had a hand in his family’s murder.


We soon learn that he is pretty ruthless and highly efficient. His apartment acts as his headquarters for carrying out his plan and comes equipped with a panic room that is covered in maps, pictures and trophies bearing his work to date. He also has a secret hideout on board an abandoned ship, where he keeps a key component of his plan — the brother of the Albanian mobster Alphonse used to do his dirty work.


It isn’t long before everything gets complicated by his growing affection for Beatrice. He even does her a solid by injuring the man who hurt her, but not killing him. Beatrice realizes that she would have been devastated had she been responsible for the man’s death. Now she is totally “head over heels” for Victor, but his plan is reaching fruition and his survival was never part of the endgame he’d planned.


This one really works thanks to a thoughtful script by J.H. Wyman (“Fringe”) and measured direction by Niels Arden Oplev (“Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”). They turn out to be a great team.


They also manage to attract a fine cast, with Colin Farrell stepping in as Victor, alongside Noomi Rapace, as Beatrice. The film also benefits from small turns by F. Murray Abraham and Armand Assante as underworld figures.


Sadly, the studio billed this as an action movie, so audiences were not thrilled to get a drama, and the people who would have liked it were driven away by the advertising campaign. A blatant case of a studio hiring a foreign director who they admire and then tampering with his product when it is time to market it.


If you skipped this when it played in theaters, now is the chance to see something that dares to make you care about the characters before throwing some thriller elements into the mix. Good stuff and very akin to the thrillers that permeated Hollywood during the film noir phase that saw darker storylines and stronger parts for women.


2013, rated R.