Dead Man Down Blu-ray Review
DEAD MAN DOWN was released in theaters in early 2013 to extremely lukewarm reviews. In our recent interview with the film’s director, Niels Arden Oplev (full interview available here), he explained the flawed expectations that likely led to many of the issues people cited with the film, most notably the action-heavy marketing campaign. This is NOT an action movie. But I will admit after seeing the trailers and various TV spots for DEAD MAN DOWN, I certainly thought it looked like an action movie. It’s more of a cerebral thriller along the lines of Oplev’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Sweden, 2009) and that’s a good thing.
DEAD MAN DOWN tells the dual stories of our two main characters, Victor (Colin Farrell) and his neighbor Beatrice (Noomi Rapace). Victor is a thug for local crime boss Alphonse, played menacingly by Terrence Howard. Alphonse and his crew have been dealing, for months, with someone terrorizing them through cryptic letters and photographs they have not been able to trace. Victor, though moving up the ranks, is clearly not happy about his place in the world, living on after his family was murdered. Similarly, Beatrice is also living in a very dark place since being partially disfigured (though still incredibly beautiful) thanks to a drunk driver. Beatrice lives with her mother in the same apartment building as Victor and has been observing him for some time when our duo finally meet, and the sparks start flying.
DEAD MAN DOWN is really, at its core, a love story presented as a neo-noir thriller. But even this gets flipped on its head as we learn the real reason these two have become connected; these two deeply broken individuals struggle with ideas of revenge, justice, and the possibility of hope in a seemingly hopeless world. It all sounds fairly trite when boiled down in this way and DEAD MAN DOWN fell into obscurity within Hollywood releases this year for this very reason. But it isn’t fair to the film Oplev has put together – most notably through his stellar casting of Rapace, Farrell, Howard, and the supporting players.
Rapace’s career has been skyrocketing since her casting in the original Millennium trilogy in Sweden (2009). But though her star has been rising, most of her roles since have been fairly generic. Oplev (who first directed her in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) gives Rapace a real opportunity to shine once again and she steps up and hits it out of the park. Farrell is equally riveting as Victor, though both performances crackle with intensity mostly when they are on screen together. This incredible chemistry elevates DEAD MAN DOWN’s fairly generic plotlines and adds a layer that will really keep you riveted. In the end our heroes have to face a universal question of morality – is it enough to live only for vengeance? Victor and Beatrice have to reconcile the fear and guilt that has been their only reason for living to find out if they have the strength to live on, to hope.
So why did a riveting thriller with great performances get so little run in the United States? Well, therein lies the problem – expectations are a HUGE part of any persons perception of art. For example – I might see a terrible movie but if it isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, I might actually speak about it more favorably than a really good movie that isn’t quite as good as I expected. These mixed perceptions are often brought on more by the hype surrounding various projects than problems because of intentional decisions made during post-production or in marketing. DEAD MAN DOWN is a great example of what NOT to do when marketing a movie. If you watch it, which I recommend, just sit back and enjoy and ignore the hype machine.
DEAD MAN DOWN BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p, 2.40:1 Widescreen) The video is gritty and stylized without feeling surreal. DEAD MAN DOWN is neo-noir presented in a tight, visually appealing package.
Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) The audio presentation of DEAD MAN DOWN is immersive if mixed a little on the quiet side. This works great with full room surround sound and theatrical presentation but can make it hard to hear sometimes in the privacy of your home.
Revenge and Redemption: Crafting DEAD MAN DOWN (11:30) Cast and crew discuss the filmmaking process, why they like working with Oplev, working with each other, and generally what drew them to the story of DEAD MAN DOWN. There are interesting discussions of plot and process here. If you enjoy the film, you’ll like this story.
Revenge Technique: The Cinematography (06:31) Another featurette presented on the Blu-ray disc of DEAD MAN DOWN, this one focuses on the shooting and lighting used to create the gritty world presented in the film. The environment is very well presented.
Staging the Action: The Firefights (05:44) A quick feature interspersing storyboards and other preproduction elements with the final footage and interviews with the stunt team. There isn’t much action DEAD MAN DOWN – it’s very secondary to the character-driven thriller – but it is very well done.
The Blu-ray also features previews for other coming attractions, and DEAD MAN DOWN comes in a package with the Blu-ray disc, a DVD of the film, and an UltraViolet digital copy.