Dead Man Down

Dead Man Down
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Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Cert: 15A
Genre: Thriller
Starring: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper, Isabelle Huppert
Running Time: 1 hr 58 mins

And then they all walk into a bar together and there’s a punchline.

Danish film-maker Niels Arden Oplev directs Irishman Colin Farrell and Englishman Dominic Cooper as Hungarian New York mobsters under the command of Illinoisan Terrence Howard. Confused? Well, just you wait until Colin's Swedish girlfriend (Noomi Rapace), her French mother (Isabelle Huppert) and the Albanian gangsters get here.

Gotham City has seldom seemed as bizarrely and confusingly multicultural as it does in this reasonably nifty crime thriller. The wafting scent of Europudding aside, Dead Man Down assumes the pleasing shape of a satisfactory revenge cycle until the final reel, when it all goes a bit crazy and Gerard Butler-ish.

Until this unfortunate and increasingly implausible final act, Farrell plays Victor, a mysterious henchman in the employ of ruthless crime lord Alphonse (Howard), with no little aplomb. In an underworld plagued by untrustworthy Jamaicans and shifty East Europeans, Victor is the only person Alphonse can really trust.


Or can he?

Farrell hasn't always had the best of luck while brandishing a weapon on American soil ( The Recruit or SWAT anyone?). But director Oplev, who presided over the first and only remotely passable Sieg Larsson adaptation to date ( The Girl with Dragon Tattoo , though not the rubbish sequels or remake) keeps Dead Man Down moody in tone and surprising in incident for much of the run time. The film's double-triple cross structure does get a little overcooked – oh look, I've stumbled into this secret room filled with all of the real culprit's secret plans – but Farrell keeps us onside with a soulful and damaged character study.

There are some lovely supporting turns from Cooper, Howard, Rapace and F Murray Abraham. Paul Cameron's shadowy cinematography, Oplev's succinct compositions and neat dialogue from JH Wyman (who oversaw much of the final series of JJ Abrams's underappreciated Fringe ) allow us to forget that this picture was forged between Fast and Furious creator Neal H Moritz and the all-dunking, all-slamming folks down at WWE Studios.

The results aren't the legsweeping pinfall that they might have been, but Dead Man Down is frequently classy enough to justify Isabelle Huppert's involvement.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic