Literally every time the story is going nowhere they throw in a curve-ball
Dead Man Down Blu-ray ReviewI’m sure that, somewhere in Dead Man Down’s convoluted script, there’s a really good idea desperate to escape the stifling deluge of unnecessary twists and plot contrivances, but it would appear that neither first-time feature writer J.H. Wyman – writer and showrunner for the popular Fox sci-fi series, Fringe – nor acclaimed Swedish director Niels Arden Oplev, making his US debut following on from the massive global success of the vastly superior original Swedish language adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, were prepared to hitch their horses to one specific element and make that stick, instead drowning the viewer in twists in place of suspense and bookending the otherwise unremarkable crime thriller with mildly diverting action sequences.
Dead Man Down Blu-ray Picture QualityDead Man Down gets a solid, though far from exceptional video presentation which largely suffers from the same intrinsic issues that the US release was criticised for. Presented in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen, the 1080p/AVC encode boasts impressive detail, rich colours and next to no obvious issues, but for that shared one. It’s a fairly glossy, stylish piece, which sports welcome facial observation, decent skin and clothing textures, background details and fine object detail – all with no signs of excessive DNR application, overt edge enhancement, banding or aberrant noise. The colour scheme sports a surprising variety of vivid colours which break from the norm for this kind of piece, although the film is still inherently limited by the chosen dark-and-gloomy setting. It’s here, of course, where we find the most problems, with blacks seldom feeling fully resolved; neither rich nor dark, and coming with the kind of frustrating crush that robs the darker sequences of that much-needed shadow detail. It’s only one fault, but it’s big enough to prevent this otherwise decent video presentation from being put forward as any kind of demo or reference material.
It’s a fairly glossy, stylish piece, which sports welcome facial observation, decent skin and clothing textures
Dead Man Down Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is much harder to fault. Whilst the film is only peppered by a few action beats – the biggest at the beginning and end – these do provide the opportunity for full-throttle bombast; your living room engulfed in a flurry of whizzing bullets, clacking automatic weapons, raging fires, thundering explosions and other such mayhem. Even during the seemingly less fast-paced moments there is plenty to keep the surrounds engaged, however – dialogue takes centre-stage across the frontal array and remains clear and coherent throughout, and the painfully generic score gets far too much room to breathe for my liking, but in terms of sonic promotion, there is a great deal on offer. Dynamics are well-observed, ambience is tangible and the atmosphere is well-crafted from start to finish. Demo-quality, reference material.
your living room engulfed in a flurry of whizzing bullets, clacking automatic weapons
Dead Man Down Blu-ray ExtrasDead Man Down sports just a trio of Featurettes in the way of extras, all fairly decent and information-packed, but still not substantial enough to reward the true fans who are hiding out there.
Staging the Action: The Firefights is a 6-minute Featurette which actually looks way beyond the scope of just its ‘firefights’ remit, and covers pretty-much all the stunts in the film, from driving to jumping out of a window, with the key shootouts that bookend the movie clearly also coming into play. With such a short runtime it’s difficult to get any real quality insight into the production, but they whizz through the behind the scenes glimpses at speed, largely avoiding fluff and instead packing the extra with stills, green-screen shots, b-roll footage, and storyboards to give you an overview of what went into these important moments.
Revenge and Redemption: Crafting Dead Man Down is an 11-minute offering dedicated to the script and characters, with the cast and crew discussing – at length – the character motivations and background details added to bring depth to the story. Whilst I admire the director’s conviction, there’s no way that the finished product holds the kind of weight that he was clearly aiming for.
Revenge Technique: The Cinematography rounds out the Featurettes with a six-and-a-half minute look at the way that the film was shot, the colour scheme chosen, the night sequences and the different settings. Whilst the film is polished, pretty and suitably slick, there’s nothing distinctive in either the setting or cinematography that deserves this kind of discussion.
The disc is rounded off with a number of Previews, nominally for films that have not long been in cinemas, like Two Guns and Riddick.
Is Dead Man Down Blu-ray Worth BuyingI’m sure that, somewhere in Dead Man Down’s convoluted script, there’s a really good idea desperate to escape the stifling deluge of unnecessary twists and plot contrivances, but it would appear that the filmmakers were not prepared to hitch their horses to one specific element and make that stick, instead drowning the viewer in twists in place of suspense and bookending the otherwise unremarkable crime thriller with mildly diverting action sequences. It’s a disappointment in terms of performances, wasted potential and lasting impact; a waste of the talents of all of those involved.
This UK Region B-locked Blu-ray boasts very good video presentation and great audio, as well as a slim selection of decent enough extras; a release that fans would be encouraged to pick up, and one which matches up identically to its US counterpart. Those interested who failed to get to see the movie at the cinema should perhaps reset their expectations and consider a rental first. It’s far from a bad movie, but ‘mildly diverting’ isn’t exactly the highest commendation.
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