“Dead Man Down” is Danish director Niels Arden Oplev’s reward, I think, for making the original Swedish version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” in 2009. This is how it works if you’re an offshore commercial filmmaker: One of your movies gets a toehold in the US market and then you’re invited to Hollywood to show what you can do with movie stars and several thousand rounds of bullets. The danger is that your talents may get lost in the translation, and so it is here.
But before this urban revenge melodrama falls apart in a clatter of plot absurdities and pretensions, it has its loopy charms. Someone is undermining the criminal enterprise of slick New York gangster Alphonse (Terrence Howard), and after a few false leads, the saboteur is revealed to be Victor (Colin Farrell), a glowering recent member of Alphonse’s crew. Why is Victor setting his confederates up for a bloody fall, and why is he mailing them jigsaw pieces of a mysterious photograph?