Reel Critics: 'Dead Man' running in noir thriller

Director Niels Arden Oplev teamed up with forceful actress Noomi Rapace in the acclaimed original of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." They team up again for another tense crime thriller in "Dead Man Down." Colin Farrell joins them in this dark and dangerous tale of revenge.

Farrell plays Victor, a man whose wife and daughter are murdered by gangsters known to him. He sets out on a path of brutal retribution to kill everyone involved. Along the way, he encounters Beatrice, played by Rapace. She has her own story of anguish and a need for revenge.

Together they inhabit a world that combines film-noir mystery with heart-pounding action. Elements of "The Usual Suspects," "The Bourne Identity" and "Fargo" come to mind as the complex plot unfolds. It has more twists than a Coney Island pretzel and strains logic at times. But if you're a fan of thoughtful thrillers with a large dose of wild gunplay, this one's for you.

'Oz' without the wizardry

Perhaps there's no more beloved movie than "The Wizard of Oz." Perhaps the idea of making a movie about the Wiz himself isn't a bad one.

But the uninspired "Oz the Great and Powerful" would have been better served if the filmmakers took a step back to see just what was so magical about the 1939 classic. "Oz" was more than just candy-colored visuals, Munchkins and witches. It also had a heart.

This merry old land of Oz is overstuffed with digital effects where subtlety goes out the window faster than a flying monkey. No more a gentle, bumbling magician, Oz the Magnificent (James Franco) is a smirking con man who uses his best tricks on pretty ladies.

When he finds he's no longer in Kansas, the very pretty Theodora (Mila Kunis, dressed like Puss in Boots) believes him to be their new King. Finding out that the job pays a boatload of gold, Oz the man merrily trips down the yellow brick road as he seduces the lady's heart.

Equally lovely sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) is less enchanted about this newcomer. Both girls dislike Glinda the Good (Michelle Williams), the daughter of the last King.

The slick Disney assembly line works overtime with smoke and mirrors to keep us from paying attention to the man behind the curtain. If only someone had a brain, a heart, the nerve to give us something that could truly send us over the rainbow. I felt like I'd landed in that field of poppies…

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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