Monday, August 22, 2016

SS United States Silver Screen Review: Dead Man Down (2013)

"Even the most damanged heart can be mended"
                              - Quote from Dead Man Down

Dead Man Down. It's an action drama movie with gangsters, snipers, romance, death, Albanians, and the SS United States! What more could you want during an afternoon escaping the heat and humidity?

Colin Farrell stars as mostly-mute Victor, who is employed in NYC as a gangster and seeks revenge in his spare time. Along the way, he catches the stare of his disfigured neighbor Beatrice (Noomi Rapace). Love, death, and retribution ensue. Terrence Howard and Dominic Cooper also star.

I am so on the fence with this movie. I do enjoy the action and the revenge-seeking, but when it tries for romance, I don't think it knew what to do. I thought there was a little too much focus on the relationship, and not enough fighting taking place. My advice: why not tie the two plots more together?

Speaking of the romance, it was a lot more awkward than it needed to be. I get it, okay? They're both really, really rusty.

A lot of the focus for Beatrice and her story is on her scars from a car accident. It seems to really bother her, but honestly... it's really not that bad. She says she had to have facial reconstruction surgery after the accident, but her face looks amazing except for the lines on her face (which stand out less depending on the kind of lighting). The before-accident photos of her could have been taken after the accident. It could be argued that her perception of her disfigurement is in more in her head, but that doesn't explain the neighborhood kids. They call her "Monster," taunt her, and assault her every time they see her leaves the building (Who raised these kids??). It's a little excessive for a couple faded lines. It's a case of the makeup team failing meet the script's requirements. Also Hollywood afraid that the female lead cannot be too unattractive. It's a shame, and it brings the movie's realism down.

This movie wasn't all bad. The fighting and shooting, while few and far between, were fun to watch. The final one rocked. You have my girl hostage? Okay, I'll drive my truck right through your mansion's front door and crash through to the basement. It's ridiculously amazing.

That ship though? She's the star we're all here for.

Hollywood let all the ship's blemishes show, but that's what helped her get cast in the role of abandoned luxury liner/secret hostage holding location. Victor heads to an abandoned part of the city, driving past abandoned, overgrown piers. Moored to one of these piers is the SS United States (via the magic of CGI). You see an aerial shot and a stern shot while he is driving and walking towards it.

Then, Victor gets on the ship. You see him walking around the ship, first going down the promenade deck, then going down the first class staircase, eventually wandering through the ballroom.

There are some chandeliers and bar props placed in the ballroom. I guess they were added to give some sense as to what that room was, or what kind of ship this was. With the whole ship gutted, it is hard to get a sense of any of the ship's grandeur (other than size). It's probably also there to give people (not obsessed with ocean liners) something to look at instead of bare yellow walls.

Victor then ends his journey through the ship in a hallway to unlock a door. In the next shot, he is in a pool, but it is a movie set. The SS United States' actual pool, deep in the bowels of the ship, is perpetually in darkness. With no power available and no available light like the other locations filmed, the pool was understandably was unusable as a movie location.

The whole SS United States screen time is approximately 25 seconds, but it covers multiple locations. If you include the movie pool location, the time on board is two scenes totaling around 5 minutes.

This is the first time feature film-goers have been given a peek inside the ship after her layup in 1969. The ship's current state helps give the scene an eerie atmosphere. I have seen videos and pictures of the ship, so I wasn't surprised in her condition, but it's still a little sad. I am glad a film studio found value in the ship, even in its current state. It just goes to show, even at the worst she has ever been, she is still usable and still has the potential for greatness.

The Movie: Needed more action, and everything else was problematic. 2/4
SS United States: Used exterior and interior as a filming location relevant to the plot. 4/4

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