Dead Man Down: American Debut of Swedish Director Oplev (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)

The casting’s the thing in Dead Man Down, the artistically disappointing American film debut of Swedish director Niels Arden Oplev, better known as the man behind the original and fascinating film, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

I wonder why FilmDistrict, the distributor, has decided on review embargo until this evening (It opens tomorrow, Friday). It certainly no worse than the action thrillers that have opened theatrically thus far, starring Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis.

Reteaming with the star of that film, the vastly talented and courageous actress Noomi Rapace, oplev has chosen a rather familiar neo-noir crime thriller, set in New York City (though it could have been placed in any major city, both in Europe and America).

The appealing international cast, which is easily the film’s best asset, includes Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard, Noomi Rapace, Isabelle Huppert (old and mature enough to play Rapace’s mother. And in supporting roles, we have Armand Assante

Neither satisfying as character-driven feature nor engaging as plot-oriented caper, Dead Man Down suffers from haphazard, overly familiar narrative, and preposterous dialogue credited to J.H. Wyman (who also is responsible for the lousy performances given by Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts in a previous film).

Farrell, at his most physically handsome, plays Victor, a brooding enforcer, bent on revenge after the ruthless killing of his wife and young daughter.

However, his activities are observed by the equally enigmatic Beatrice (Rapace), a neighbor living across from his apartment, with her own personal cause for retribution.

The Odd couple: Beatrice is both physically and mentally bruised. Her face is scarred after being hit by a drunken driver, Lo and behold, in a bizarre, senseless turn of events,Victor Beatrice join forces.

Stylistically, “Dead Man Down”” is incoherent, showing split personality in trying to combine (unsuccessfully) devices of a European art film (the director is Swedish) and those we recognize miles away fron numoerous generic American actioners, with all the requisite chases and explosions.

Production values are better than the scenario, including cinematography by Paul Cameron (who shot Michael Mann’s “Collateral”) and evocative score by composer Jacob Groth, who scored the whole series of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

At the end, all I could think of was, what a waste of good actors, all capable of so much more than what they are given to do and say here.

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