Scorsese and DiCaprio. Nolan and Bale. Something great happens when filmmakers reteam with their best casts and crews. ‘Dead Man Down’ marks the return of another great duo: Noomi Rapace and Niels Arden Oplev, star and director of the original Swedish ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘.
Who doesn’t love a good movie with well-written twists and turns? Most movies save their twists for the end, altering the story as you’ve come to know it up until that point. ‘Dead Man Down’ has some nice little twists of its own, but they’re executed in a unique manner that kicks them off from the get-go.
If you’ve seen the trailer for ‘Dead Man Down’, here’s what you probably expect: Rapace plays a woman whose life gets turned upside down by a bad man. In the process, half of her face is left scarred. After watching her watching her neighbor (Colin Farrell) murder a man from her balcony, she decides to blackmail him into also killing the man responsible for ruining her life and face, a powerful crime lord played by Terrence Howard.
While this isn’t far from the film’s actual plot, it deceptively steers you away from the real story at hand.
I wouldn’t call this bad marketing, but creative marketing. Why? The story that I just described sounds good enough to gain your attention, right? Well, the actual story is even better than that. The trailer isn’t misleading at all, just exceptionally vague. Little twists turn what you think you know on its head. (Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the plot for you.) I believe this marketing has been intentional. It’s quite refreshing to go into a movie expecting one story, but being handed another. The twists and turns start from the film’s intense opening sequence. It’s the opposite of a movie whose trailer reveals too much of the plot – and I, for one, think it’s brilliant.
The trailers also portray ‘Dead Man Down’ as a high-action thriller. Of course, being centered around gangsters and revenge, it has several great shoot-outs and fights, but not nearly as many as the trailer would lead you to believe. Again, this isn’t a bad thing. Let me explain.
Rapace and Farrell give brilliant performances here. The weight of this film rests on their shoulders. At the same time that we’re watching this thriller unfold, we discover great multi-dimensional characters. As you might expect, a somewhat romantic relationship evolves between the two. I say “somewhat” because they literally only share one moment of innocent physical interaction. Imagine watching a romance film where the couple’s relationship is never the focus of the story and is hardly talked about. It sounds like an impossible dynamic, but I promise that the non-romantic romance in ‘Dead Man Down’ is more romantic than most romance flicks. (I apologize for using the word “romance” so many times in one sentence.) This wouldn’t be possible without Rapace and Farrell. Their chemistry is so intense and tangible that I’m begging director Niels Arden Oplev to bring Farrell into the mix and turn his duo with Rapace into a trio. Acting off one another, Rapace and Farrell make every non-action scene just as captivating as the awesome shoot-outs.
Without question, ‘Dead Man Down’ is one of the best films of 2013 (so far). I don’t, by any means, see it being an awards contender at year end, but that won’t keep it from landing in my Top 10.