Suspending disbelief is a part of watching most any action film, where bullets fly like birds and mayhem explodes as easily as a shaken soda can.
But even in such a contrived movie world, it's asking far too much for us to accept that Noomi Rapace would be hounded as a "monster" for a little scarring around her left eye.
It's just one of the many silly leaps of logic taken in the lifeless "Dead Man Down," a film that brings together two lost souls bent on vengeance. Colin Farrell stars as a brooding gangster, Victor, who's infiltrated the brutal gang of Alphonse (Terrence Howard) to avenge the deaths of his wife and daughter. He's joined in revenge by Rapace's Beatrice, who spies him from a neighboring high-rise and blackmails him into killing the drunken driver who crashed into her.
It's the first Hollywood film for Danish director Niels Arden Oplev, who made the original "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," starring Rapace. "Dead Man Down" starts with vacant musings by Victor's friend Darcy (Dominic Cooper), who, while holding his newborn, reflects on how "we're not meant to be alone."
Alphonse, played with typical velvety suavity by Howard, is receiving mysterious messages that read "you will realize" with fragments of a photograph. He's starting to panic by lashing out at possible sources.
The screenplay is squirm-inducing in its preposterous dialogue and haphazard plotting. When Victor and Beatrice go out for dinner, they describe themselves as if they're on a Match.com date. They each admit drinking causes them to swear, and then trade four-letter expletives.
Victor carefully plots the final, bloody flourish of his revenge. But Darcy is closing in on his real identity, and his growing intimacy with Beatrice is making Victor silently question his mission. There is some solid noir atmosphere, courtesy of cinematographer Paul Cameron, but the tension finally bursts as inelegantly as it was it manufactured.
The film was partially financed by the WWE, so perhaps it's fitting that "Dead Man Down" should climax with the automotive equivalent of a body slam.
• Rated: R for violence, language throughout and a scene of sexuality.
• Director: Niels Arden Oplev.
• Cast: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper and Isabelle Huppert. Distributed by Film District.
• Running time: 118 minutes.