Storyland Launch

storyland news

Carmen Bryce attended the launch of Storyland to check out the five new original dramas, commissioned by RTÉ and the Irish Film Board.

Now in its fifth season, Storyland offers homegrown talent a platform to tell their story in bitesize portions to an audience hungry for new drama.

In the coming weeks, RTÉ and the Irish Film Board/Bórd Scannan na hEireann will release five new original online dramas for the Storyland series.

Kicking off on January 19, a new series will be released on RTÉ Player every Monday – each containing of four by six-minute episodes.

Close to 200 aspiring and experienced drama production teams who pitched their ideas to make a series for Storyland was whittled down to five – Black Sheep Productions, Blinder Films, Deadpan Pictures, Fantastic Films and Stirling Film and Television Productions.

From black comedy Burning Wishes to crime drama Farr – each series offers something very different in way of plot and pace, but all promise to hook us in with something fresh and compelling.

Aidan Largely, writer and director of Farr, released on January 26th, said one of the biggest and beneficial challenges of the Storyland project was to contain and develop such gripping drama within six-minute episodes.

“I had to be pretty strict with myself to keep the story sharp and compelling within a few minutes, which is a great thing to practice as a writer. Each episode of Farr is different from the other, has a different feel to it, a different pace – but has conflict of the heart hardwired into the whole story,” said Aidan.

According to David Crean, Drama Development Executive for RTÉ Television, there is a huge appetite in Ireland for “great drama” in whatever way it chooses to present itself.

He said, “One of the most crucial parts of my role is to spot creative talent, nurture it and give it a voice. If you have a talent and can get it seen, there is a huge appetite for it. Both Love/Hate and Amber show that there’s an enormous appetite in Ireland for great drama, and Storyland is a big part of that story

“These five commissions are a real chance for writers, directors and producers to make a drama that is wholly original and can engage and delight its audience. It’s a launch-pad for drama makers to grow and become the hit makers of tomorrow.”

James Hickey, Chief Executive, Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board said, “Television drama plays a vital role in the continuing development of Irish writers, directors and producers in film.

“Storyland shows just how significant the crossover is between TV drama and feature film, and that if you have the talent to create one, you can do the same for the other.”

Storyland has been a springboard for past writers, actors, directors and producers, including Kevin McGahern (Republic of Telly, Hardy Bucks), Paul Duane, Rob Cawley and Gary Duggan (Happy Slapper) who went on to make Amber for RTÉ One and actress Charlie Murphy (Love/Hate) as well as Hardy Bucks who went on to have an RTÉ Two TV series and a feature film.

This may account for the high number of applicants to the new run of Storyland, and a testament to the creative talent chosen to tell us something about the world in a way we haven’t seen before.

 

 

The new Storyland dramas can be watched over the coming five weeks on the Storyland hub on RTÉ Player www.rte.ie/storyland

 

Burning Wishes / Deadpan Pictures

Release Date: Monday, 19th January

Ne’er-do-well brothers Seamus and Martin Geraghty promise to honour their friend Paudie’s deathbed request and scatter his ashes at their favourite childhood spot.  After letting him down in the past, this is one promise to Paudie that Seamus is determined to keep even when Paudie winds up buried instead of being cremated.  Burning Wishes is a black comedy about death, friendship and good ol’ fashioned grave-robbing.

 

 

FARR/ Stirling Film and TV Productions

 

Release Date: Monday, 26th January

 

Farr is a crime drama set in Belfast. It centres on Michael Gallagher, an ambitious young detective who has been promoted to a task force aimed at taking down the city’s most dangerous crime family, the Farrs. As his investigation deepens, a murder of one of the Farrs pushes Michael towards a reckoning with his own dark past. As the bodies and betrayals mount, Michael must choose between destroying the Farrs or saving himself.

 

Ctrl/ Black Sheep Productions

Release Date: Monday, 2nd February

Ctrl is a fast-paced thriller set in Dublin that follows Colin, a brilliant young hacker and his exploits in the world of online hacktivisim. In order to gain the trust of this hactivist group, Colin must jump through various hoops in order to prove himself as he struggles with the consequences of living a secret double life.

Rapt/ Blinder Films

Release Date: Monday, 9th February

Rapt is a sci-fi drama set in a Dublin where, in a single instant, everyone has vanished. Everyone, that is, but paramedic and single mum Ange Smith, who finds herself alone in an empty world and desperate to find her way home to her baby daughter. Except the world isn’t as empty as she might have thought – strange and dangerous forces are on the prowl…

(R)onanism / Fantastic Films

 

Release Date: Monday, 16th February

 

Set in Cork, (R)onanism is a comedy drama about Ronan, a guy who falls in love with himself, marries himself and plans to spend the rest of his life with himself! But little does Ronan know that Noddy, the first self-proclaimed ‘ronanist’, has been secretly filming him and posting the videos online. When the videos go viral, Ronan turns to his friend Laura for help as cash-obsessed talent manager McPhun tries to exploit Ronan’s new found popularity.

 

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Chinese Puzzle

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DIR/WRI: Cédric Klapisch  • PRO: Cédric Klapisch, Bruno Levy • ED: Anne-Sophie Bion • DOP: Natasha Braier • MUS: Christophe Minck • DES: Roshelle Berliner Marie Cheminal • CAST: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Cécile De France

Chinese Puzzle is a quirky rom-com likely to warm the cockles of your heart.

Standing centre is Xavier (Romain Duris), a 40-year-old French writer forced to move to New York from Paris when his British wife Wendy (Kelly Reilly) moves their kids in with her new man.

The couple’s marriage hit the rocks when big-hearted Xavier agreed to donate sperm to his lesbian best buddy, Isabelle (Cecile De France), so she could become pregnant.

Conveniently, Isabelle has also moved to New York to be with her partner, Ju (Sandrine Holt), so Xavier has a place to stay.

Things are about to get even more complicated when Xavier’s ex, Martine (Audrey Tautou), flies over on a business trip, kicking the film into full romantic comedy mode.

This is the third film writer-director Cedric Klapisch has made with this good-looking bunch, following L’Auberge Espagnole (2002) and Russian Dolls (2005), and it doesn’t offer up anything remarkably different or deeper than the others.

The characters in Chinese Puzzle are flawed, but well-intentioned. The way they grapple with life like a bunch of teenagers is the source of most of the endearing comedy that runs through the film.

The film is also stylistically impressive. There are frequent digressions into fantasy – historic figures visit Xavier in his bedroom, glamour models come to life from the pages of a magazine.

Chinese Puzzle is light-hearted and charming, with a pretty conventional ‘all you need is love’ rom-com message at its core.

It is the film equivalent of a French pastry – fluffy and tasty but leaving you a little peckish for something with a bit more substance.

Carmen Bryce

 

12A (See IFCO for details)
134 mins

3 Days to Kill is released on 20th June 2014

3 Days to Kill – Official Website

 

 

 

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Short Film Review: Alicia’s Mask

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Carmen Bryce checks out Noel Brady’s latest short film, Alicia’s Mask, which was awarded Best Film at the OIC media Shorts in the Lighthouse Cinema this week.

 

Despite or in fact, due to its brevity, Noel Brady’s six-minute long short Alicia’s Mask, that deals with the emotive issue of rape, packs a powerful punch.

We are introduced to Alicia, a beautiful young woman who is making an introduction video for her new online dating profile. We see an older man in front of a computer, watching her video. Alicia starts with her introduction, “Hi, I’m Alicia.  I’m a Pisces and I love long walks in the rain.” She sighs, embarrassed at how cliché her speel is. She starts again. “Hi, I’m Alicia,’ but falters. She takes a sip of wine, then another. We notice a bottle of pills on the table.

Alicia tries again to introduce herself, and again, and again, never getting past her starting point. She breaks down in tears and we see the anguish on her face as she fights fuzzy flashbacks of a girl only semi-conscious on a bed wearing a red dress.

The film is shot in black and white so the flash of red in the fragmented flashbacks creates a sense of unease as we wait for Alicia to reveal the terrible truth she’s struggling to bury.  Another flashback of the outline of a man entering the room, closing the door behind him, sitting on the bed and stroking the girl’s leg.

Alicia starts filming again with the words, “My name is Alicia Heart and I was raped a year ago today.…” On the flip side we realise that the older man watching the video unfold is a detective with an arrest warrant for the man Alicia names on tape.

Dealing with the highly sensitive issue of rape within a few minutes is a challenge that runs the risk of appearing flippant or one-dimensional, but it’s the conciseness and simplicity of the piece that makes it so effective.

Doey Mulligan as Alicia gives an amendable performance as a broken young woman struggling to put her life back together after experiencing the horrors of rape.

Within a few minutes, we journey with the actress through a multitude of emotion – denial, shame (“Maybe I shouldn’t have worn that dress,” she suggests), anger, resignation, grief, and finally arrive at the first step of her recovery – confronting her painful reality.

In a similar way to the director’s last film, True-D, Alicia’s Mask exams harrowing subjects in a creative and effective way.
 
True-D, a short film that looks at the ruthlessness of the recession and the victims it leaves in its wake, also packs a punch within minutes. Not unlike Alicia’s Mask, it highlights how courage and human compassion can bring a person back from the brink.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interview: Shaun Blaney, writer & director of ‘Trespasses’

SHAUN BLANEY canvas

When a bungled burglary leads to one partner dead and a slew of loose ends, Rab hastens his plans to leave his old employer’s town for good. Already being hunted however, Rab is soon cornered by a mysterious stranger and given a terrible ultimatum.

Carmen Bryce caught up with Shaun Blaney, writer & director of Trespasses, to find out more about his short film, which screens on Tuesday, 28th Jan at the Film Devour Short Film Festival in the Black Box in Belfast.

 

What is the message behind Trespasses

 

I wanted to get across to the audience something they are already well aware of – these are desperate times and people are willing to risk a lot for a little stability in their lives. In Trespasses a relatively small sum of money (£12,000) was enough for Rab to risk his life over. £10,000 is the price of a human life according to The Cowboy, which is what he charges for his services. Rather than heading home Rab checks himself into a nice hotel for a few hours, a sort of escape from the kind of places he usually finds himself. I’m aware that this kind of story has been done many times before, a sort of ‘stranger comes calling’ affair, though by utilising this staple form of cinema experience I could put my own interpretation on to it and create 20 minutes of escapism, which is the kind of thing I want to watch myself.

 

What were the challenges in portraying this message within less than 20 minutes?

 

Many and varied. The script was one to begin with. As this was my first time writing for screen, I had far too much material to fit into a 20-minute short when it came to the edit. Of course it’s better to have more, but I had to be brutal when it came to removing some of my favourite material. As we wanted to maintain the pace of the story, the majority of shots concerning dilapidated buildings and TO LET signs around Belfast were the first things to go, shots which may have reinforced the theme. I think for the most part the theme comes across, but sacrifices had to be made to maintain the action and tension for me.

 

The film is set in Belfast. Was it important to you for the film not to be dominated by politics or the ‘Troubles’ and do you think it’s important for the originality of NI-based films to steer clear of this subject matter? 

 

To be honest, I’m sick to death with plays and films about The Troubles. I’m not suggesting for a moment that we try to forget they happened, but if people from the North pride themselves on dusting themselves off and getting on with things because, “What else can you do?” then we have to let our art do the same thing. Let it be progressive and not continuously retrospective. Our films and theatres are saturated with art concerning the troubles already. Trespasses is a work of fiction set in the present and so for me being a child of the peace process – I’m 26, born after the Troubles had finished and I don’t remember much about them – I felt they had no place in my fictional Belfast. I wanted a more universal subject matter.

 

What were the challenges in being on the other side of the camera as a director?

 

The challenges were all technical for me. Developing a working language with my director of photography was a challenge as I didn’t know the proper way to tell him to slide the camera to the left. Learning the procedure which goes into capturing every shot with the clapper board and then we had to start the sound rolling, etc. Also recording sound was quite difficult in some of the locations due to outside noise. We didn’t have the luxury of a closed set.

 

How did your experiences as an actor aid your role as director? 

 

Working with my actors was a joy because I was lucky enough to be working with people who are the best in the North at the minute. And coming from an acting background I knew when they may appreciate a note on performance and when to stay back and let them do their thing. You also develop a complete lack of shame over the years while acting. This helps when you need to go beg, steal and borrow to get your project off the ground.

 

What Irish actors/directors do you admire?

 

They’re all local. It’s talent I see working locally that keeps me going. The indie movie scene in the North is really exciting. There’s a lot of great work happening with all the major Belfast theatre companies like Tinderbox and Kabosh. I’d be too afraid of leaving anyone out.

 

Do you think the N.I/Irish film industry can survive this climate or is the only chance homegrown talent has for success is in the UK/States? 

 

I think it’s thriving at the minute, especially in Belfast. This is fast becoming a place people in the industry want to come work in. We’re well looked after by the majority of companies who practice fair employment. Of course the big parts go to the established names, but there is a growing self motivation with everyone else to work hard and get things made yourself in order to get yourself seen. There is the worry that the big companies will come for a while, take what they can get and leave, but it’s up to us to carry on this creative wave that’s going so well now.

 

Trespasses is being screened on 28th January at the Film Devour Short Film Festival in the Black Box in Belfast.

 

 

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Spotlight: ‘Harry, Hamlet and I’

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Carmen Bryce takes a look at  this “Love/Hate meets Hamlet” film, which recently screened at the Underground Film Festival, and speaks to director Aidan Conron.

It takes a minute or two to shake off the effects of trippy Indie thriller Harry, Hamlet and I, after the lights come up. The plot was inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet but is set amongst Dublin’s criminal underworld, exploring themes of identity, guilt, madness, betrayal and love throughout.

The film’s protagonist Harry (Graham Earley), the only son of a criminal gang leader, has been institutionalised after a tragic event leaves him sotraumatised and guilt-ridden that he loses his grip on reality. With his mind broken, Harry takes on a new identity, that of Prince Hamlet.

 

We watch as Harry battles his demons to reclaim his true identity only to discover his is a brutal world he no longer wants to be a part of. As Harry tries to break free into a better world for himself and his true love Celeste (Sarah Morris), he questions whether it is possible to rewrite his fate or if it’s one he is intrinsically bound to.

 

A Love/Hate meets Hamlet of sorts set predominantly in a mental institution makes for pretty intense viewing. The script weaves together modern day language and Shakespearian prose, cosmic dreamscapes with dark and violent reality and the values of ancient tribes against the absence of these ethics in today’s world.

 

We are drawn into the claustrophobic horror of Harry’s world, given a glimpse into his nightmares and visions until, like the protagonist, we’re not certain of what is real and what isn’t.

 

“It is a pretty heavy trip for the audience and a big journey for them to make alongside Harry and those closest to him,”  said director Aidan Conron. “That said, the themes the film deals with are massively relevant today so I think a modern audience will find a lot to relate to.

 

“The film is about identity, our attachment to our own story and there inforcement of our self-image through our story,” said the director. “We did worry whether the film would be accessible given the Shakespearian language but we screened it to a group of teenage lads and they had no problem with it.

 

“This was important to us as the message of the film is particularly relevant to young men, who these days I think suffer from a lack of identity, a lack of a strong, positive role model. Young men are so vulnerable, they need a father figure, they need boundaries to be laid down otherwise they’ll swing from the chandeliers.”  Conron, an actor himself (he plays Doc in the film), toured with Hamlet for more than a year, which he calls ‘the best play ever written.’

 

The film started life as a play itself, written to be performed on a bare stage and on-screen, most of the drama unfolds in the prison-like confines of Harry’s room. An emotive performance was needed to convey such big themes within such a small space and Earley delivers with gusto, capturing the torment of a young man struggling to find his place in the world.

 

Harry, Hamlet and I was a daring production to make with what the director tells me, was a very lean budget, but one that works well. There is a lot of fairly intense material to absorb and it may take another watch to grasp the layers of meaning in the film, but nobody said Shakespeare was a walk in the park.

 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2N6jjUXNx0E

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Report: Film Ireland at the Dublin Doc Fest

Doc Fest

 

Carmen Bryce reports on the Dublin Doc Fest, which recently took place as part of the 10 Days in Dublin arts festival.

The Dublin Doc Fest (DDF) served documentary aficionados with a generous helping of beautifully crafted shorts as part of the ‘10 Days in Dublin’ arts festival.

DDF is an exciting new short documentary film festival that showcased work from both Irish and International documentary filmmakers, its objective to provide a new platform for short documentary film and to place it centre stage. It is the only purely short documentary film event in Ireland.

In this first instalment on 4th July at the Sugar Club (D2), the festival delivered work exploring art and the artistic process, memory, addiction, hope and the strength of the human spirit from award winning documentaries and filmmakers such Colm Quinn, Martin Bleazard, Andrew Telling, Hedvika Hlavackova, Siobhan Perry and Ross McDonnell.

The festival invited an audience to sink their teeth into an assortment of documentaries that each offered a brief but provoking insight into vastly contrasting topics, from springboard diving to drug addiction.

The festival got underway with Off The Board by Siobhan Perry, which took a look at the world of spring board diving in Ireland. The doc, which received ‘Special Mention’ at the Galway Film Fleadh 2012, is a slowly paced, stylised short, easing the audience gently into the evening’s screening experience.

Set against a melodious soundtrack, the movement of diving in the docu is represented through vivid and striking images of the young divers while they narrate their experience, motivations and fears as competitive athletes through disembodied voices.

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Needle Exchange

Colm Quinn’s Needle Exchange offered a very contrasting tone, style and content. Produced by Andrew Freedman for Venom Productions, Needle Exchange tells the story of two recovering drug addicts who practice tattooing on each other and find over time that they mark each other in more ways than merely physical.

The engaging, touching and at times, darkly humorous documentary, had already screened in festivals such as the Galway Film Festival, the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Worldwide Short Film Festival and Paris Documentary Festival to name a few.

Another memorable screening at the Dublin Doc Festival was Jan Blom by Martin Bleazard, which tells the story of a rowing coach from Holland who found himself in the Port Alfred township of South Africa after his partner died and started an organisation to train disadvantaged children in sports and basic education. The story of Jan Blom is uplifting and inspirational, warming the hearts of even the most cynical viewer.

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Remember Me, My Ghost

A highlight of the festival was Remember Me, My Ghost by Ross McDonnell, in which a resident of the notorious Ballymun flats in Dublin’s northside recounts her bleak experiences living amongst drug abuse, social deprivation and the constant threat of violence.

The documentary was developed out of McDonnell’s stills project ‘Joyride’ in which he photographed teenage residents of Ballymun. The initial focus of the project was as a fictional feature with the script developed through interviews with Ballymun’s real life protagonists. However, upon McDonnell’s return to the area the tower blocks had been demolished so he decided to take another approach for the short.

Instead, we get a heartbreaking story of a woman who has her hopes of a new life for her young family violated and crushed but ultimately finds her way through the other side to a better future.

Festival Director Tess Motherway told Film Ireland she would love to see DDF become a fully fledged and internationally renowned event.

She said, “As festival director, I couldn’t be happier with how the first ever screening went. I was delighted with the turn out and have been receiving nothing but positive feedback for the selection of films, the way they were put together, which was a huge motivation – to screen short documentary film as a curated event, and for the event itself.”

Tess added, “The essence of the festival is to specially curate short documentary film in an engaging way – to counteract the trend of showing short docs as opening acts to larger features. I believe Ireland has some of the best documentary filmmakers in the business but unfortunately they receive little acknowledgement closer to home. As for short documentary film, it is a hugely underappreciated form of film and that’s why I wanted to create a new platform for short documentary film in Ireland.

“There was a lot of work put in, as I work full time in the industry myself, and spent most evenings over the last few months promoting, watching submissions, selecting films and getting the right formats for screening. It was important for me to show high quality films in high quality formats. What also sprung from submissions, and which was also something that I wanted to create, was a mix of funded, professional and student films side by side – not separated, but shown together for their quality and merit.

“I would love to see DDF grow bigger in the future, to become a fully fledged and internationally renowned event, on par with other documentary film festivals such as Sheffiled Doc Fest and to create a hub for audience and filmmakers alike,” she added.

Carmen Bryce

 

 

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Interview: Pippa Cross, producer of ‘Summer in February’

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Carmen Bryce talks to Pippa Cross, producer of Summer in February, currently screening in cinemas.

“What drew me in was the challenge of telling such an intimate story against such a big landscape,” said accomplished British producer Pippa Cross of her latest project Summer in February.

Based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Smith, Summer in February focuses on the love triangle between real-life British artist Alfred J. Munnings (Dominic Cooper), his friend Gilbert Evans (Dan Stevens) and the girl they’re in love with, young painter Florence Carter-Wood (Emily Browning).

Smith was moved to write his story after he was introduced to David, the son of Gilbert Evans, who came across his late father’s diary entries dated between 1910 and 1914.  Reading the diary, it became clear to Smith that Evans and Munnings had been in love with the same girl. After the book’s release in 1995, critics remarked how it could, in the right hands, be captured beautifully on film.

“It’s a story that had to be told,” said Cross. “Gilbert lived with a painting of Florence above his mantelpiece most of his adult life but only told his children she was a lovely friend from a long time ago. When his son found his diary, a picture of Florence fell out. It’s heartbreaking really.”

In 2005, Smith’s lifelong friend and film producer Jeremy [Cowdrey of Apart Films] and later Pippa Cross and Janette Day for CrossDay Productions came on board. Smith remained committed to the story as screenwriter with Christopher Menaul (Prime Suspect) joining as director.

While there are few stories more intimate than the anguished diary entries of a heartbroken man, the “big landscape” Cross talks about comes in the form of the rugged beauty of the Cornish coast just before World War I.

The story unfolds amongst the ‘Lamorna Group’ of bohemian artists such as Munnings and husband and wife Laura and Harold Knight who used the wild coastline as both their inspiration and their playground. The scenery throughout is breathtaking and a fitting backdrop for an Edwardian romance. The most effective moments in the film come when the turmoil of the love tryst coincides with shots of the dramatic Cornish landscape – rolling waves, violent storms, looming cliffs casting shadows on vast stretching beaches.

As Cross explains, the film has “such a Cornish story at its heart” so to shoot it elsewhere simply wasn’t an option.“Artists have been going to Cornwall for years for its light and our cinematographer Andrew Dunn painted Cornwall in his own way. He’s a genius,” said the producer.Aside from Dunn’s (Gosford Park) talented input, another winning feature of Summer in February is the casting with strong lead roles from Dominic Cooper & co. Cooper (The Devil’s Double, My Week with Marilyn), who plays the fiery-tempered Lorathio Munnings, is a magnetic presence on screen and dominates every scene with his bombastic charisma, especially those with his mentally fragile love object Florence.Dan Stevens trades on his Downton Abbey persona to convince as the honourable soldier in love.

“We always wanted Dominic for the part. His larger than life screen presence was perfect for Munnings,” says Cross. “Emily [Browning] read beautifully during her audition with such pose. We flew her in from Melbourne where she lives and she wasfreezing and exhausted during shooting. This came through in the emotional fragility you see on Florence’s face in the film. Dom is the rock star, seductive and charismatic and Dan plays the nice guy, who is almost too gentlemanly, too slow off the mark. Florence is faced with the universal dilemma ­– fall for the nice guy or the rock star. She is memorized by Munnings, powerless against his charms but immediately regrets it when it is too late to go back on,” said Cross.

“All three characters are wonderfully complex. Jonathon [Smith] was deep inside the characters and cared for all three immensely. He was very brave as a screenwriter and didn’t consult his book once. His dialogue is sleek and really scratches beneath the surface of the characters,” she added.

Cross, an accomplished producer with an extensive portfolio (Vanity FairJack and SarahShooting DogsThe Hole) likes to vary her projects as much as possible. Quirky British rom-com Chalet Girls was her last film, and it “couldn’t have been more different than Summer in February,” she laughs.

 

 

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Cinema Review: Dead Man Down

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DIR: Niels Arden Oplev • WRI: J.H. Wyman • PRO: David Hoberman, Ryan Kavanaugh, Todd Lieberman, Hugo Shong, Andy Yan • DOP: Paul Cameron • ED: Timothy A. Good, Frédéric Thoraval • DES: Niels Sejer • Cast: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard

Director Niels Arden Oplev’s American theatrical debut Dead Man Down is disappointingly devoid of all the edgy appeal of his acclaimed Swedish feature The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Set in New York, Colin Farrell plays the brooding and broken Hungarian immigrant Victor, who infiltrates the gang who killed his family in order to exact his bloody revenge. However, Victor’s plan is interrupted when his neighbour Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) discovers his dark secret and contracts him into a scheme to seek out her own grisly vengeance against the drunk driver who ruined her life.

Dead Man Down is unevenly paced throughout, at times simmering with the slow-burning intensity of a Scandinavian thriller before being catapulted forward with spectacles of explosions and ‘shoot ’em ups’ more at home in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

The film gets off to a lingering start with a heartfelt speech about the meaning of life from Farrell’s friend and fellow mob henchman, a heavily tattooed Dominic Cooper. Ominous close-ups of Farrell’s anguished face and Thespian eyebrows convey most of the dramatic intensity in the first 20 minutes and we settle in for what we expect to be a calculated, grim and gritty crime thriller.

Then all hell breaks loose with a great deal of gunfire, Albanian mobsters sporting AK-47s in broad daylight, much clichéd dialogue between clichéd villains and a flashy finale that involves the hero crashing through the front of a house to save his girl.

The plot is filled with twists and turns that occasionally defy logic and more than once Oplev and screenwriter J.H. Wyman (The Mexican, TV’s Fringe) breeze over weaknesses in the plot to move the film along.

Farrell has only been living in New York for a couple of years and yet has a flawless Yankee accent (for an Irish actor) with no trace of his Hungarian roots. This is briskly explained by Farrell in the film when asked by Rapace where his Hungarian accent went, ‘I worked hard to get rid of it.’ How convenient.

Rapace, well-versed in playing tormented souls, (her role as the damaged Lisbeth Saunders in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was widely applauded), plays a woman so ‘disfigured’ by a car crash that the local scallywags throw stones at her and scrawl ‘Monster’ on her front door and yet, even with a few pink scars on her face, the Swedish actress is still more beautiful than most women on the planet.

Victor spends two years playing cat and mouse with the gang who murdered his wife and child, picking them off one by one and saving his full wrath for crime boss Alphonse Hoyt (Terrence Howard). Yet in all his painstakingly intricate and cautious planning, kills one gang member in his own apartment in full view of anyone who happens to be looking out of the window of the huge tower block of flats opposite. A supposedly fragile Beatrice films the whole thing on her phone before boldly securing a date with her known-murderer neighbour and insistently blackmailing him.

These inconsistencies (and they don’t end there) may have been easier to overlook if the film was brought to a clever and compelling ending, but the showy climax that resembles scenes from a Die Hard movie will disappoint an audience hoping for something better crafted.

Dead Man Down is a classic example of the actors outshining the film they were cast in. Farrell is a good enough actor to play this role in his sleep and yet the film doesn’t draw out his talents above and beyond the paint-by-numbers vested avenger character he was cast as. Rapace, whose interpretation of the complex Saunders in The Girl with... is also wasted in this role, and yet, it is the offbeat and tender romance between Victor and Beatrice, urged along by Beatrice’s quirky mother (Isabelle Huppert) that is the most watchable thing about the whole film.

Carmen Bryce

15A (see IFCO website for details)

117 mins
Dead Man Down is released on 3rd May 2013

Dead Man Down – Official Website

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