Directed by Alex De Rakoff, Dead Man Running is yet another movie about yet another guy who owes some bad men money. This time around the story takes place in London, the guy in question is named Nick (Tamer Hassen) and the bad man who he owes the money to is a loan shark named Mr. Thigo (played by Curtis Jackson, who you may know better as 50 Cent). When it becomes obvious that there's no way Nick's going to come up with the money by the promised due date, Thigo gives him twenty-four hours to come up with the cash or pay with his life. If that weren't bad enough, Thigo is intending to use Nick as an example to other would be welchers, and so he goes out of his way to make it impossible for Nick to pay him back - and on top of that, he kidnaps Nick's poor wheelchair bound mother (Brenda Blethyn) and holds her hostage.
With nowhere else to turn, Nick turns to his best friend, Bing (Danny Dyer), and before you know it the two are off like a pair of rockets to try anything and everything they can think of to try and raise the money before their time runs out.
Produced by a pair of British soccer stars (sorry, football stars!), Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole, the film is about as derivative as they come but with that said, it's entertaining enough in a completely disposable and wholly unoriginal way. Obviously influenced by Guy Ritchie's early work, it's ridiculously fast paced and points to the writer who managed to show how the global recession is affecting even big time gangsters, what with people not being able to pay them back and all. The cinematography is on the gritty side, predictably so, and the film looks like any other recent British gangster film you'd care to name. If only more had been done to differentiate this film from the others in the genre, it could have been a contender.
As far as the performances go, Hassen and Dyer play their fairly thin cockney characters well enough. Hassen's Nick has a past that he's trying to get over in order to be a good family man while Dyer's Bing is the ever loyal right hand man who is only too happy to do whatever it takes to help his best friend out of a jam. Jackson is sufficient as the heavy, bringing a nice sense of menace to a few scenes and obviously having fun playing the gangster while Monet Mazur, as Nick's vacant love interest, offers the film some welcome sex appeal but nothing more. All of these performances are disposable and forgettable, however. The only stand out in the entire film is Brenda Blethyn as Nick's mother, garnering our sympathy while providing some interesting interaction with Jackson's bad guys, particularly a gunman played by Philip Davis. She manages to create a character we can actually like and care for and in turn hope for, which isn't something we can say about the more prominent leads in the film.
When the dust settles, Dead Man Running is perfectly sufficient entertainment. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, or even try to, and it's not at all difficult to figure out where it's going as it plays out on your screen. It's riddled with clichés and cardboard characters and lacks any emotional depth outside of Blethyn's fleeting moments and it's about as shallow as shallow can be. But on the flip side of that, it moves quickly, it has some moments of humor that work, and it has occasional instances where there's some decent tension, a modicum of suspense and a good bit of action.
Dead Man Running is presented in a pretty spiffy 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation that features nice color reproduction and a fair bit of detail in the foreground and the background of the image at all times. There's a bit of edge enhancement and at times though there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and overall the image is pretty decent on this DVD though you might notice a bit of mosquito noise in the background of some scenes if you're inclined to look for it. The reds look nice and splattery, however, always a plus in films like this
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 track is of fairly decent quality. The levels are well balanced and there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion to complain about. Dialogue comes through clearly at all times and the score and sound effects are mixed in with the appropriate amount of punch, the gun shots in particular. Don't look for any subtitles, alternate language dubs or closed captioning options, however, as you'll be sorely disappointed. An alternate English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is also included.
Phase 4 has basically included two extras on this disc, the first of which is The Making Of Dead Man Running (23:54) which is a featurette that includes interviews with most of the principal cast members along with some behind the scenes footage showing how some of the fights were shot and how some of the more dramatic scenes were shot as well. A second featurette, entitled simply Behind The Scenes (23:11) is an assortment of fly on the wall footage, location footage and a general assortment of clips of the cast and crew making the movie together.
Aside from that there's a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Phase 4 films features that play before you get to the disc's contents, static menus and chapter selection.
A moderately entertaining if completely disposable crime thriller, Dead Man Running is entertaining enough to work as a time killer on a slow day and for gangster movie buffs, particularly those with an affinity for the British way of handling the genre, it's worth seeing once. Phase 4 Films' DVD release looks and sounds fine and includes a few cursory supplements, making this a fine rental but hard to recommend as a purchase.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.