trailer, probably one of the best trailers I've ever seen. The visuals, the camera angles, the violence, the music, dear god the music - a fantastic cover of "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" - all promised a dark, tortured, crime thriller full of twists, turns, and brutal character twists. Basically I walked in looking for a second "Drive"*, and instead got... a pretty forgettable thriller. And one that sadly isn't nearly half as dramatic, creative, or even clever as it thinks it is. And "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" never gets played.
"Dead Man Down" wants to be a bleak crime thriller about characters facing a choice between redemption and revenge, burning down ghosts of the past or trying to create a future. I love the scars on Noomi Rapace, symbolizing her own loss and pain that she has to struggle to overcome - plus they look awesome. However after dealing with these tough choices for their characters to decided between, it just ends in a big stupid action shoot-out where it ends up "oh, you can have your cake and eat it too!" For roughly 90% of "Dead Man Down", the movie takes place in some kind of serious reality, and it ends on a note of action schlock that belongs only in a Stallone movie. Clearly this was leading up to some sort of tragic conclusion, and "Dead Man Down" skips out to give us a bad Hollywood Ending. The movie is well-shot, there are some great performances here and there - I love Terrence Howard and I know some day Hollywood will give him something great to work with. But the movie never "pops". For some reason we begin in medias res, so the first half hour is spent trying to figure out what the characters are doing and why, which would be find if it turned out to actually be an interesting plot.
Okay, "Dead Man Down" is not a "bad" movie. But I have to say that sentence with a long inflection on the word "bad", since it isn't purely awful and unwatchable and up until the ending I would have ranked it as a decent though flawed crime thriller. Unfortunately, upon further retrospect, this is hardly much better than a cheap straight-to-DVD thriller. They release about sixty of these things every day on Redbox, each one as forgettable as the last. Our hero's plan is so elaborate that he might as well be the Riddler**. And Noomi Rapace's character spends most of the most representing a choice between life, or revenge and destruction, but then in the last five minutes becomes nothing but a damsel in distress. They probably wrote it as one of those fast food thrillers, and then somehow an above-average director took it over and tried to turn it into "Drive". Well, I can't say its pretensions hurt the production, the movie at least has the shine of a filmmaker who was really going all-out to make something special, but there wasn't going to be anything great here. Though whoever made that trailer - you are great at your job. I want to see that guy make a movie!
* "Drive 2" actually is kinda coming with a movie called "The Place Beyond the Pines", which features a bankrobbing, motorcycle-driving, frosted-blond Ryan Gosling. That looks great too, by the way.
** The entire movie's plotline depends on mobsters forgetting what a guy whose daughter they accidentally shot, whose wife they murdered to keep from testifying, and who they think they killed - only two years ago - looks like, and then letting him in as their closest associate.