Just when it was beginning to seem like Danish director Niels Arden Oplev had turned into a missing person case worthy of Lisbeth Salander, this captivating trailer for “Dead Man Down” (below) surfaced today. It’s been three years (an eternity in Hollywood time) since Oplev’s Swedish-language adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo turned him and Rapace into exotic European commodities that had studios fighting over dibs on their next projects. But while his leading gothette, Noomi Rapace, seized a high-profile role in Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus,” Oplev fell in and out of the director’s chair on several promising projects, including adaptations of Jennifer Egan’s literary ghost story, The Keep, and Marcus Sakey’s debt-driven amorality tale, Good People.
But it appears Oplev’s deliberate approach paid off, judging by the stylized intensity coursing through his trailer for “Dead Man Down,” a tense neo-noir starring Rapace as a femme fatale who hires a hit-man (Colin Farrell) to take out the crime kingpin who also happens to be his boss. Oplev has whipped up a kinetic mixture of menace and sensuality (enhanced by a pop diva cover of Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamonds”) that recalls such gritty crime character studies as Michael Mann’s “Thief” and Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive.” However, it’s still too early to tell whether Farrell and Rapace will produce the undercurrent of sex and danger necessary to make a film like this crackle and pop.
Regardless of the prospects for success for "Dead Man Down," Oplev will forever be remembered as the filmmaker who brought Lisbeth Salander to life on the big screen for the first time. He’s the guy who made the risky call of awarding the title role to Rapace -- a beautiful unknown actress he suspected purists would argue was too tall and feminine to fill Salander’s combat boots. But Oplev’s instincts paid off and Rapace transformed Stieg Larsson’s bi-curious punk vigilante from a mythological creature, who existed in the public consciousness as a fearsome and fascinating cultural curiosity, into a more relatable and recognizable woman whose vulnerability doesn’t make her a victim. Even though David Fincher’s slick studio version may have reached more moviegoers, Oplev’s dark, moody adaptation remains the prototype that best captures Larsson’s coarse vision of human depravity. Or, as Oplev put it when we last spoke to him two years ago, just as the worldwide obsession with the Millennium Trilogy had reached its peak: “Salander is a female Charles Bronson who takes the law into her own hands … and illustrates to women that they too are capable of violence.”
Though Oplev didn’t mention a Bronson remake among the projects he was developing, he was most excited about an adaptation of The Exception by Danish crime novelist, Christian Jungersen. Now that he mentions it, we’d like to see how he might refashion a hard-boiled Bronson vehicle like "Death Wish" for a female protagonist.