* (out of four)
Following "Stoker" and last year's "Bernie," "Dead Man Down" marks the second time in two weeks and the third time in 10 months that a movie has featured a dead body in a freezer. Criminals need new storage ideas. Perhaps they'd enjoy a group outing to the Container Store.
Not that familiarity kills "Dead Man Down," which does resemble 100 other revenge sagas while feebly attempting to capture the moody toughness of "Drive." No, "Dead Man Down" simply doesn't make sense. Out to avenge his murdered wife and daughter, Victor (Colin Farrell) methodically leaves clues behind for bad guys to follow, yet he's also worried that they're catching onto him. Meanwhile, Victor's neighbor Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), who saw him kill a man, implausibly blackmails Victor into killing the drunken driver responsible for the accident that led to the arguably mild scars on her face. Certainly an incident like this would be traumatic—particularly for a former beautician, Beatrice suggests—but gutless writer J.H. Wyman ("The Mexican") makes sure Beatrice isn't too damaged to be a safe love interest.
Speaking of which: Recovery is wonderful, but when a movie revolves around a guy seeking vengeance for the death of his family, I prefer you don't introduce a new owner of his heart. Let the guy focus and heal. Instead, Victor procrastinates and mindlessly puts someone he is supposed to care about in danger.
Once again, director Niels Arden Oplev (who directed Rapace in the Swedish "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") botches the pacing, so a long movie drags even more. WWE Studios can surely do a more boorish film than the persistently bleak "Dead Man Down," but maybe not one that's more outrageously convoluted. Viewers don't care about a complicated, violent game when they can barely identify the players before a gunfight breaks out. The chief baddie, weakly played by Terrence Howard, comes off as too dumb and frustrated to arrive anywhere near intimidating.
Somehow this poor excuse for a genre flick acquired an overqualified supporting cast, including "Amadeus" Best Actor winner F. Murray Abraham and ever-welcome French cinema icon Isabelle Huppert ("Amour"). The villainous, generic Albanians, however, seem to have wandered over from the set of "Taken 2."
I don't know why we keep trying to upset Albania, and here's another question: What would be an example of a dead man up? "Weekend at Bernie's"?
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