"Do not look for revenge," St. Paul counseled the Christians of Rome, "for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'" (Romans 12:19).
Not so in "Dead Man Down" (FilmDistrict). God has no role to play in director Niels Arden Oplev's twisted tale, where violent payback is regarded not only as a path to redemption, but as a way to get a girlfriend.
In the seedy underbelly of New York City, Alphonse (Terrence Howard) is the boss of a crime syndicate. One of his new recruits is Victor (Colin Farrell), a brooding lug who carries a big secret: Alphonse killed Victor's wife and daughter in a gangland raid, and now Victor is out for the kingpin's blood.
The trap is set. But, for his elaborate plan to succeed, Victor must first gain Alphonse's trust by becoming a loyal assassin himself.
In the meantime, Victor has caught the attention of his neighbor Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) who gazes lovingly at him from her apartment window across the way. Like Victor, Beatrice is a damaged and lost soul. A car accident has left her disfigured, and now children throw rocks at her, taunting, "Monster!"
Beatrice's dotty mother, Valentine (Isabelle Huppert), takes Victor for a nice, respectable man. So she encourages the liaison.
The pair's courtship is nontraditional, to say the least. On their first date, Victor and Beatrice challenge each other to recite four-letter words, which they do between giggles.
But the road to happily-ever-after takes a wild turn when Beatrice whips out her cellphone to reveal a video she recorded of Victor killing someone.
Things don't look good for the happy couple as Beatrice proceeds to blackmail Victor. In exchange for her silence, Victor must liquidate the man who ran Beatrice over and caused her misery.
If all this sounds confusing, it is; what ensues is a labyrinthine -- and bloodthirsty -- game of cat and mouse.
"Dead Man Down" was produced by World Wrestling Entertainment, which may explain the many body-slamming moments on display -- all of them stylishly and impeccably choreographed. They're certainly easier to take than the more grievous interludes of violence, such as the scene in which we watch a character being eaten alive by rats.
The film contains a benign view of revenge, pervasive bloody violence, including gunplay and torture, a nongraphic bedroom scene with brief rear nudity and relentless profane and rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.