Dir: Niels Arden Oplev. US. 2013. 118mins

Dead Man Down

Independent crime thriller Dead Man Down gives Danish director Niels Arden Oplev his American debut and, in its romantic subplot, pairs Colin Farrell with Noomi Rapace, from Oplev’s original Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. But neither the on- nor off-screen talent can spark much life into this self-consciously moody revenge tale, which ends up feeling like a strained exercise in seventies neo-noir revivalism.

Farrell and Rapace often fall back on teary looks and extended pauses to get through their scenes together.

US distributor Film District faces a tough task opening the film wide in the US this weekend, though the strong supporting cast will provide some marketing leverage. Independents that have acquired the IM Global project for other territories may do better, especially in the European markets that made the original Dragon Tattoo an international hit.  

In the twisty screenplay by J H Wyman (The Mexican), Farrell’s Victor is a quiet but effective lieutenant to New York gangster Alphonse (Terrence Howard, from Red Tails) and Rapace’s Beatrice is his mysterious neighbour. The two characters become linked by a common obsession: Victor wants revenge for what Alphonse did to his once happy family and Beatrice is out for retribution from the man who ruined her good looks.

While director of photography Paul Cameron (Collateral) and Oplev’s Dragon Tattoo production designer Niels Sejer give it an attractive look, the film gets weighed down by its elaborate plot and mannered dialogue. Even the touches of quirky comedy feel forced.

Farrell and Rapace often fall back on teary looks and extended pauses to get through their scenes together. The UK’s Dominic Cooper (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) is good as one of Victor’s mob colleagues but the film makes little use of supporting players F Murray Abraham and Armand Assante. In one of her rare American films, Isabelle Huppert plays Beatrice’s eccentric mother.  

Production companies: IM Global, WWE Studios, Original Film, Frequency Films

US distribution: Film District 

International sales: IM Global, www.imglobalfilm.com

Producers: Neil H Moritz, J H Wyman

Executive producers: Stuart Ford, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones. Michael Luisi, Ori Marmur, Deepak Nayar, Reid Shane

Screenplay: J H Wyman

Director of photography: Paul Cameron

Production designer: Niels Sejer

Editors: Timothy A Good, Frederic Thoraval

Costume designer: Renee Erlich Kalfus

Website: www.deadmandownmovie.com

Main cast: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Dominic Cooper, Terrence Howard, Isabelle Huppert