Dead Man Down is a recently released action thriller released by Original Film, Frequency Films, IM Global, and WWE Studios and was directed by Niels Arden Oplev, probably best known for having directed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. What makes it related to Fringe, however, is that it was written by none other than J.H. Wyman himself. I think that I recall Joel saying quite some time ago that he was writing a screenplay, and I am assuming that this is to what he was referring. I am so happy that he is establishing himself outside of J.J. Abrams by writing a screenplay. Upon doing some research, I discovered that he also wrote the 2001 film The Mexican and created the 2003 TV series Keen Eddie (which starred Mark Valley), but this is his first effort following Fringe, and I hope that he will do more work outside of J.J. Abrams. I recently learned that the TV series on which he is working, tentatively titled Human, will also have J.J. on its crew, of which I hadn't been aware. I really love J.J. Abrams, so don't get me wrong, but that's my point; J.J. has a major name in the TV and film industry, and I would really love Joel to establish a bigger name, as well. Joel certainly has a large, expansive mind because Dead Man Down is certainly very different from Fringe in many ways, and I believe that The Mexican is a comedy film. After having seen Dead Man Down, however, I would ultimately say, unfortunately, that Joel should stick to science-fiction and stay away from these revenge films that are quite honestly getting to be a bit tiresome, in my opinion.
Dead Man Down stars Colin Farrell as Victor, a man who has infiltrated a crime organization in order to exact revenge upon Alphonse, the man responsible for the murders of his wife and daughter. Along the way, he meets Beatrice (played by Swedish actress Noomi Rapace), who was facially disfigured as a result of a car accident, and after seeing Victor murder someone, she blackmails him, telling him that he is to kill the man responsible for her accident or else she will report what she saw to the police. It is honestly a bore, as revenge stories are becoming so common in Hollywood today. That is not to knock Wyman's work because I am very loyal to him, but I just don't know if this is the right genre for him; I think that he would have more room for creativity in a genre such as science-fiction because this film just didn't really do much for me. Comparing the film to Fringe, Fringe is something that is full of emotional and philosophy, leaving you with something deep and meaningful to think about, but I regard this as the same-old, same-old action flick that has been done time and time again. I recall something that a Creative Writing professor once said, which is that Hollywood has tended to move toward prioritizing special effects over storytelling, and I have seen a good amount of films lately that have fit that bill, and this one is certainly no exception. Visually, you see a spectacle, but emotionally, you are left feeling empty.
Part of the problem could be, I admit, that as a viewer, I was not given enough time to get to know and connect with the characters, which is one reason why it isn't really fair to compare a film to a TV series. Fringe notwithstanding, though, something about this film reminded me of Hitchcock. I said after seeing it that it seemed like a film Hitchcock might be involved in today, if Hitchcock were more focused on sex, violence, which he wasn't; he was more about mystery and psychological thrills. I love Hitchcock's films (who doesn't, right?), but most of them are not going to be up for Best Feminist Film; as a feminist, you just have to know that and accept that before even beginning the film, and Dead Man Down certainly is not going to win any Feminist Film of the Year award, either. Beatrice lacks a great deal of narrative control of the film's story; we see her and learn about her primarily through the eyes of the male protagonist, Victor. Her desires are channeled through him; her primary desire is for the man responsible for her disfigurement to die, but she wants Victor to kill him for her, and he keeps putting it off, indirectly saying that it will happen when he says so. She exists solely as an object of desire for our male protagonist (also a typical aspect of James Bond films), and even any kind of romance between the two of them is on his terms. He is a model of strength and courage, whereas she is a model of weakness and fearfulness, and this is quite frustrating coming from one of the main writers behind those whom created the character of Olivia Dunham. I think that it also reminds me of Hitchcock, though, because of the concept of identity playing such a huge role, particularly in Victor using a false name (his name is really Lazlo Kerick) so that he can infiltrate Alphonse's organization.
I do appreciate the perceived Hitchcock feeling, and I think that the writing and the acting are decent, but as I have said already, this film really just left me feeling empty; I wanted more from it, having gone into it knowing that Wyman wrote it. That was, in fact, the sole reason why I had any interest in seeing the film in the first place. I needed more out of it; I needed to understand Beatrice on a deeper level, and I needed her to have more narrative control, to be more of a subject than an object, to not be the "Bond girl" to the extent that she is. The story, as I said, is also tiresome. The Punisher, Punisher: War Zone, Law Abiding Citizen, Taken, and so forth are all action films about male protagonists, formerly or currently some sort of militant operative, out for revenge because members of their families have been harmed and/or killed, and those are just a few examples that come to mind; there are probably a lot more, and that is not to say that the films that I mentioned are not good films (I love all but Taken, which I haven't seen), but the plot has become a tiresome plot that Dead Man Down does not do much to make original. I also feel that aside from the fact that it is how and why Victor and Beatrice meet, the subplot of Beatrice wanting her offender dead serves very little purpose to the story and helps create a film that is a bit convoluted. I don't much care for any of the characters, and the storyline, for a number of reasons, falls a bit flat, leaving me feeling disappointed, and I can only hope that if Mr. Wyman writes more screenplays, they will do his sheer talent justice and be the basis of better films than Dead Man Down, a film to which I award 5 rabbit's feet.