“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, first you dig two graves” – Confucius
Dead Man Down is a tale of revenge. It is actually the story of two people, both seeking vengeance.
“Viktor” (Farrell) is a hired gun who works for “Alphonse” (Howard), who runs a criminal enterprise that is never fully defined for the audience. We learn that he manages buildings that are home to illicit enterprises, but who the actual owners are, or more specifics about what goes on in these buildings (and more that are being sought out) remains a bit of a mystery.
Someone is trying to drive Alphonse crazy with fragments of photographs and other mind-games, before the body of one of his closest associates turns up in a freezer in his house. That leads to a visit to a drug dealer Alphonse now suspects of being behind the messages. The visit goes bad and turns into a shoot-out and just when it seems certain Alphonse will die, Viktor saves him. In doing so, he earns the gratitude and trust of Alphonse.
Viktor lives alone and across the way he often waves to a pretty girl standing in her window. She is “Beatrice” (Rapace), whose face was badly damaged by a drunk driver. She and Viktor go out to get to know one another, but it turns out she knows a lot about him. Including the fact she has video of him killing someone in his apartment. She offers him a difficult choice. Kill the drunk driver who damaged her, or she will inform on him. He agrees. But he says it will take time and she doesn’t appear to be patient.
Who Viktor really is, and what he really wants to do with Alphonse, becomes apparent somewhat early on, removing most of the suspense. It remains only to identify all of the players, the specifics of Viktor’s grievance and how his relationship with Beatrice will resolve itself in light of his fatalistic approach to achieving his objectives.
This is a first rate cast. Isabelle Huppert provides some welcome relief from the usual dreary background of revenge stories, portraying “Valentine”, the hearing-impaired but highly amusing mother of Beatrice. But aside from her, the characters in Dead Man Down are not well-developed or thought out. Nor is their lack of development helped by the ho-hum storyline and fairly unimaginative action sequences. Considering that The Mexican was a much better script, this follow-up from screenwriter J.H. Wyman is a disappointment.
Stu Bennett, much more familiar by his ‘ring’ name of Wade Barrett, is wasted in a thug role. Farrell, Rapace and Howard give it their all and do some fine work but it simply isn’t enough to overcome all of the flaws. The brilliant F. Murray Abraham is wasted in a very minor role that he delivers with his usual panache.
Sadly, Dead Man Down died before arrival in theaters.