Niels Arden Oplev – Dead Man Down

March 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Interviews

Danish filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev, 51, always had the idea to make an American movie in the back of his mind. When his 2009 film “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (remade by director David Fincher two years later) became a huge success, Oplev moved to the U.S. and got the opportunity to fulfill his dream to crossover to the American film industry. In “Dead Man Down,” Oplev directs a stylish double revenge story featuring actors Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace.

How did this script land in your lap and become your first American movie?

[Screenwriter] Joel [Wyman] told me that when he was finishing up the script, he saw my film “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and thought, “This is the guy that is going to do my film.” He told me this directly. I had read hundreds of scripts after I did “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” but I didn’t really feel connected to any of them. But when I got [Joel’s] script in my hands I thought, “Wow, this is really exciting.” It was an exciting double revenge story with cool action and character-driven stuff.

Both “Dragon Tattoo” and “Dead Man Down” explore revenge at a methodical pace. What is it about revenge in this aspect you find interesting?

Revenge is just good drama. You have to think about what people would really do if they were put in that situation. If they get revenge, is it what they really wanted? Will it help them heal from that void or darkness that is put upon their soul from the injustice that has been done to them. That’s a really compelling and interesting theme.

But do you think Colin Farrell’s character felt like a more slow-burn type revenge was necessary in his situation? I mean, he could have easily walked up to the man who ruined his life and simply shot him in the head or something like that.

I think dragging out the revenge is very interesting. He used to be a peaceful man, but has transformed into this kind of “Donnie Brasco” type of character. He really wants to see this man suffer.

Some people have described the film as a neo-noir. Do you agree with labeling “Dead Man Down” like that?

That’s an interesting term. I can definitely accept that. It has some of that noir, but also has an action side to it, too.

Where did you pull inspiration for the film’s look and feel?

Interestingly enough, we chose the Director of Photography (Paul Cameron) and the Production Designer (Niels Sejer) from “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” We discussed where to take the whole visual side of it. Actually, one of our inspirations was a film called “In the Mood for Love,” which is a Hong Kong film. “Dead Man Down” is a story about darkness and revenge, but we wanted to shoot it beautifully. It’s dark in its mind, but beautiful in its images.

Was making the crossover into the American film industry something you always planned to do or did it happen more naturally than that?

It has always been in my mind, even before I went to film school. I moved to the U.S. when “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” became a huge success for that purpose. But I always thought it would be nerve-wracking to shoot with a crew of 120 people instead of a family-oriented crew. But I went and did a couple of TV shows first and knew my way around. I wasn’t scared anymore about where everyone was going to park their trucks.

Dead Man Down

March 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard
Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”)
Written by: J.H. Wyman (“The Mexican”)

Revenge is a dish served cold and in most cases pretty immediate. If you’re watching a master at the genre like filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, there’s no beating around the bush when it comes to it. Death comes quickly when The Bride slices her way through ninja assassins in “Kill Bill” or the Bear Jew plays homerun derby with a Nazi’s head in “Inglourious Basterds.” But when revenge is carried out in a more meticulous manner, it only works if the narrative doesn’t follow suit and come to a screeching halt. “Dead Man Down” does just that. It’s a crackling fire that dies out fast.

Danish director Niels Adren Oplev has experimented with this slow-burn revenge concept before in the original “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Without giving too much of the plot away, his attempt at doing the same in his first American film is far less intriguing, especially when the revenge story is cobbled together in scenes riddled with messy dialogue and unbelievable plot devices used by screenwriter J.H. Wyman (“The Mexican,” TV’s “Fringe”).

In “Dead Man Down,” Colin Farrell stars as Victor, a low-grade criminal who has somehow infiltrated a gang led by a man (Terrence Howard) responsible for the death of his wife and daughter. As interesting – albeit familiar – a film as that might’ve been alone, Wyman decides to pile on more useless storylines by introducing us to Beatrice (Noomi Rapace, the original lead actress of “Dragon Tattoo” before Rooney Mara made it her own), a former beautician who wants her own revenge on the man who left her face scarred after a drunk driving crash. There’s not much inspiration behind Beatrice’s anger. She just wants the guy dead and exhibits this obsession in a weirdly psychotic way during a driving scene with Farrell that would make Cameron Diaz’s crazy car rant in “Vanilla Sky” feel like a gentle argument.

Whatever her character is supposed to be experiencing emotionally, Wyman doesn’t capture her tortured soul in the slightest way. Neither does he with Farrell’s Victor whose vengeful nature just seems like too much trouble when all is said and done. A bullet straight to the head would probably make more sense in this scenario. The nonexistent chemistry between Farrell and Rapace is also a problem. It’s vague in its delivery, but even when it becomes obvious, there’s not much time to do anything with the relationship. Nor is it logical for Victor to feel anything but disdain for Beatrice to begin with.

When the bullets do start flying in the last 15 minutes, “Dead Man Down” is already a lost cause. It retreats into a cliché shoot em’ up flick that has Hollywood written all over it. It’s unfortunate Oplev’s foray into the American film industry had to start with such a whimper, especially since he’s already proven with “Dragon Tattoo” that he has a very fascinating take on the darker side of drama.