Simply because a film is from a respected director and features top-notch actors it doesn’t mean it’s going to be a fantastic endeavor. With Dead Man Down hitting Blu-ray on July 9, you’d expect something a little more from the man who directed the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo than another movie about mobsters and revenge. Does Dead Man Down even count as Niels Arden Oplev’s Hollywood debut? It arrived in theaters to no fanfare and was ushered out rather quickly. Even with Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace leading the way, J.H. Wyman’s script is too convoluted with not enough heart to carry it through the action beats behind which it lies.
Dead Man Down tells the sordid tale of Victor (Farrell), who is one of two fresh faces on Alphonse’s (Terrence Howard) motley crew of pseudo-gangsters — the other being Darcy (Dominic Cooper), who’s just had a baby. Someone from Alphonse’s gang has just shown up literally on ice in a freezer, and has been sending Alphonse pieces of a puzzle which is starting to reveal who is behind the madness. At home, Victor lives across from Beatrice (Rapace) who was in a car accident leaving her scarred, while the drunk driver who hit her walked away from his DUI after six weeks in jail. Beatrice has video proof that Victor killed someone in his apartment and attempts to blackmail him into killing the man who ruined her beauty. Now, Victor has to try to help Alphonse figure out who’s exacting revenge on him while trying to keep from falling in love with Beatrice.
With plenty of gunfire and squibs to keep you awake, the love-story between Victor and Beatrice is the real reason to invest in Dead Man Down. Is it any surprise that Oplev is able to get another great performance out of Rapace after the two delivered such a fantastic version of Lisbeth Salander? As for Oplev, he definitely brings plenty of flash to the screen with some fun camera tricks whenever there’s a staircase or stairwell involved, but after his recent gig directing the pilot episode of Under the Dome, it’s clear that Oplev should stick to feature films, and of the R-rated variety. It doesn’t help that Wyman’s screenplay seems to relish cliché, but the cast certainly makes up for that. Farrell could play his role of Victor in his sleep, and Cooper helps make their friendship believable which makes a few scenes in the finale pay off. And thankfully, Howard is kept to a minimum considering he was apparently told to chew the scenery as much as possible. Dead Man Down doesn’t exactly feel like a made-for-video effort, but it definitely feels more at home being watched on the couch than it would have in a theater — making at least a rental well worth the time and money.
As for Dead Man Down’s video department, Sony brings its typical treatment of a new release. The 1080p MPEG-4 encode certainly shows off every detail captured by Oplev and cinematographer Paul Cameron. Detail is impeccable which really helps considering how dark the film can get. Thankfully, there’s only a scene or two suffering from crush, while in outside shots, you can see far off into the distance of the New York skyline. Shadows never suffer, aside from one scene with Victor and Alphonse, and there’s also no banding, noise, or other anomalies to speak of. The same can be said of the audio. Featuring a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, bullets whiz by with the appropriate LFE levels with every gunshot or explosion. Sony keeps cranking out a “Best of” compilation with every new release to the format they originated.
The special features are kept to the EPK variety, with nothing to really neither enhance the film nor shed any light on the production. It is interesting to hear Oplev speaking so highly of the film considering that IMDB states he has disowned the American marketing for misrepresenting it — even though it is exactly what they advertised. But, he has stated that there were budget issues causing him to speed up the shoot and he wasn’t able to edit the film the way he wanted to. With that being the case, in each feature — “Revenge and Redemption: Crafting Dead Man Down,” “Revenge Technique: The Cinematography,” and “Staging the Action: The Firefights” — we hear Oplev, along with his cast and crew, speaking very highly of the production. Or at least that’s how it seems at first glance. Thinking back, they all seem to be speaking about Oplev himself. The disc also comes with forced trailers for upcoming Sony Blu-rays: Olympus Has Fallen, The Last Exorcism 2, Evil Dead, and The Call.
Dead Man Down is a fine time waster, but not necessarily one that needs to be in your collection. If you feel like you’re in the mood for a better than average shoot-em-up, you can definitely do far worse.
Cover art and photo courtesy Sony Pictures