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Explosions of violence pepper slow-burn thriller

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 03, 2013

By DEAD MAN DOWN (15, 118 mins)

  • A spirited performance from Noomi Rapace, tinged with dry humour, ensures the sexual chemistry between her and Colin Farrell simmers

  • Three-month-old chimpanzee Oscar clinging to his mother Isha for support

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Thriller/Romance/Action. Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Dominic Cooper, Terrence Howard, Isabelle Huppert, James Biberi. Director: Niels Arden Oplev.

Like so many European film-makers, Niels Arden Oplev has answered Hollywood's siren song. The Danish director was showered with plaudits for his work on the original Scandinavian version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, starring Noomi Rapace as a brilliant hacker with a dark past.

Dead Man Down reunites Niels with his fearless leading lady for a slow-burning revenge thriller punctuated by explosions of outlandish violence.

There are holes in JH Wyman's script which are never plugged, and the tightly-coiled tension of the opening hour isn't unleashed with the devastating force we excitedly anticipate. However, Niels' cool direction and strong performances paper over the cracks, adding lustre to a satisfyingly serpentine genre piece that combines the emotional intimacy of the arthouse with the pyrotechnics of the multiplex.

The film opens with kingpin Alphonse Hoyt (Terrence Howard) viewing the lifeless form of a henchman, whose body conceals the latest cryptic message and fragment of a photograph from a madman who has been targeting Hoyt's operation.

"719. Now you realise," reads the scrap of paper clenched in the dead man's fist.

Hoyt doesn't know who is targeting him, or why, and he places his trust in sharp shooter Victor (Colin Farrell).

Little does the kingpin know that Victor is the secret assassin who has wormed his way into the operation and befriended henchman Darcy (Dominic Cooper) to avenge his murdered wife and child.

Having set his trap, Victor returns home alone to his apartment. He stares into a neighbouring block and makes eye contact with a young woman, Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), who lives with her mother Valentine (Isabelle Huppert).

The beautician engineers a meeting with Victor and they embark on a nervous first date. At the end of the evening, Beatrice tells Victor that she has evidence of him killing a man and will happily withhold the video footage from police if Victor agrees to kill the drunk driver who badly disfigured her.

Dead Man Down is gripping. Sexual chemistry between the leads simmers thanks to a spirited performance from Noomi, tinged with dry humour, such as when Beatrice brings over a plastic container of food for Victor, takes one look into his fridge and quips, "I'll wedge it in between the mustard and those plastic explosives!"

Flirtation is underscored with sadness, and Beatrice warns Victor that revenge might not bring him peace of mind.

"I think you're afraid that when it's over, it won't mend your heart," she tells him tenderly.

Niels takes time fleshing out the characters and their motivations, but he invariably has to deliver slam bang thrills to justify the $30 million budget.

These include a hare-brained denouement that relies on a video playing at just the right moment to draw two characters into the line of fire. Some people have all of the luck.

Documentary. Narrated by Tim Allen. Directors: Mark Linfield, Alastair Fothergill.

Shot over the course of four years in stifling conditions, Chimpanzee is a remarkable nature documentary that grants us unprecedented access to a family of apes in the jungles of Africa.

Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill's beautiful film soars above and below the forest canopy to capture the animals in this lush habitat, which is being irrevocably altered by the effects of climate change.

The cinematography is stunning on the big screen. One slow-motion sequence captures a rainstorm in the forest. Raindrops plummet from the heavens, exploding on leaves and bulbous fungi, which expel plumes of spores into the atmosphere with each watery impact.

Later in the film, darkness descends and the forest floor is magically lit by the soothing glow from the flora and fauna. Tim Allen provides light-hearted narration throughout the film that doubles as the apes' internal musings.

"It's a special day in this deep, dark forest..." he begins, introducing us to three-month-old chimpanzee Oscar and his mother Isha.They belong to a larger pack under the control of an experienced alpha male called Freddy.

Freddy is master of one fertile section of the forest, which is under constant threat from a rival band led by the merciless Scar. Early scenes witness Oscar and the other newborns at play, terrorising their exhausted parents.

Tension creeps into the narrative when Scar and his posse raid a grove of fig trees on the border of Freddy's domain and the incursion goes unnoticed. Scar and co venture further into enemy territory, setting up a climactic showdown with Freddy.

Chimpanzee attests to the power of teamwork to overcome brute force, including harrowing sequences of the two clans locked in fierce combat. Individual personalities are accentuated by Tim's entertaining running commentary.

The film-makers' dedication to capturing the breathtaking images becomes clear during the end credits when we see behind-the-scenes footage of the crew fending off sweat bees or tripping over undergrowth in the pursuit of the chimpanzees.

Linfield and Fothergill, colleagues from the BBC Natural History unit, who worked together on the series Planet Earth, remain cheerful throughout. Their passion for Mother Nature shines through in every frame.

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