Dead Man Down

Last night, Phillip and I watched our latest offering from Netflix: a 2013 movie named Dead Man Down. We put it on our queue because of a trailer we saw on another Netflix DVD.

I give Dead Man Down a rating of “not bad, could have been a whole lot better, but I enjoyed it for the most part”. When the end credits rolled last night, I thought: “Eh, whatever”. I may have actually said that out loud.

Then, as I dropped the DVD into the mailbox, I remembered some very good scenes from the movie. They were all the quiet scenes with Colin Ferrell and Noomi Rapace together.

Dead Man Down starts off in the middle of a story. Victor (Colin Ferrell) and a group of other men are summoned to a house. In the basement of the house is a freezer. Inside the freezer is a dead man. Then Alphonse (Terrence Howard) arrives. He seems to be in charge. We learn that the dead man in the freezer worked for Alphonse. Victor and the other men also work for Alphonse. This is not the first time one of Alphonse’s employees has been murdered. Alphonse is a crime boss of some sort.

Alphonse finds familiar clues on the body: a slip of paper with some cryptic writing on it, and a small square of paper. The square fits with other squares of paper, which we assume were clues from other murders, and fit like a puzzle to reveal a portion of a photograph. Alphonse deduces the meaning of these clues, and he and his men go after the killer. With only a couple of casualties, Alphonse and his gang succeed in killing the murderer and his gang.

We see Victor, alone in his lonely apartment, in a New York City housing project. He begins staring at the pretty woman (Noomi Rapace) in the building across the way. She’s staring at him. She waves, cautiously, to him. Victor waves back, cautiously.

We learn that the woman is named Beatrice. When we first see her, she’s in a doctor’s office, following some facial reconstruction surgery. Beatrice lives with her French-speaking mother.

Beatrice drops a note in Victor’s mailbox. They go out to dinner together. Neither one is very chatty.

Victor tells Beatrice that he’s Hungarian. She tells him he doesn’t have an accent. He replies that he’s worked very hard to get rid of it. It’s an important clue to something that’s revealed later. In hindsight, it seems like an odd thing for him to reveal to a stranger.

After dinner, they go for a drive, during which Beatrice reveals the real reason she contacted him. She saw Victor kill a man in his apartment. She filmed it with her cell phone. She tells Victor she’d been in a car accident, caused by a drunk driver, which left her face horribly disfigured. (Since she looks like Noomi Rapace with some minor scars around her eye, we have to be frequently reminded that she’s supposed to be horribly disfigured.) The man responsible for the accident served a mere four months in prison. Knowing that Victor’s capable of murder, Beatrice wants Victor to kill the drunk driver. If he doesn’t cooperate, she will turn the video over to the police.

Victor doesn’t want to do it. It’s not his fight, and he resents being blackmailed. But he has no choice.

That’s the beginning of the movie. Then neither Phillip nor I could figure out what was going on. It seemed that Alphonse killed the wrong man, because members of his gang keep getting killed, and clues keep showing up. Meanwhile, Victor seemed to be working on projects of his own, including a kidnapping, and the planning of the murder for Beatrice. Victor seemed to be working for and against Alphonse at the same time. Or, something like that.

Suddenly, there’s a moment of exposition, and everything becomes clear. Victor’s name is not really Victor. He’s a Hungarian engineer who immigrated to New York with his wife and daughter. A gang of Albanians, working for Alphonse, killed the daughter, the wife, and (they thought) the engineer. So, the engineer took on a new identity, and a new name, and went to work for Alphonse. Victor is the one killing the gang members and leaving the clues.

Together, Victor and Beatrice team up for a mission of triple revenge: to kill the Albanian gang, and Alphonse and his gang, and the man who “horribly disfigured” Beatrice. I don’t know what kind of engineer Victor was, but he’s an expert at engineering a revenge plan.

Meanwhile, Alphonse is getting closer and closer to solving the meaning of the clues.

It’s a terrific story, I thought – better in theory than in execution. It was told in a more convoluted manner than was necessary. For me, though, it was those scenes between Victor and Beatrice, and their growing relationship, that carried the movie.

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