Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Dead Man Down vs. Girls Against Boys, two revenge films in which people pair up to violently avenge a wronged woman.
PremiseDead Man Down sets Colin Farrell on a path of bloody revenge for the scar Terrence Howard left on Noomi Rapace’s face. Rapace blackmails him into doing her dirty work by following him and filming him taking his own bloody revenge on someone else entirely. This, minus the blackmail angle, is a pretty boilerplate revenge narrative. But the scar makes look Rapace about 35% more like a menacing badass, which some would argue is a good thing.
The two heroines of Girls Against Boys set off on their quest because one of them, Shae (Danielle Panabaker), has been wronged at the hands of men one too many times. The other one, Lu (Nicole LaLiberte), seems mainly interested in murdering pretty much everyone. The pair set off to take vengeance not only on every man that has victimized Shae, but men generally. Girls sets its scope for revenge with a wide aperture, allowing any act of violence against a man to constitute revenge.Advantage: Girls Against Boys
Sidekick RelationshipIn Dead Man Down, Rapace and Farrell get together because Rapace has been stalking Farrell and records him committing a murder in his apartment. The trailer makes it looks like Farrell is doing most of the heavy lifting, revenge-wise, which makes it less of a sidekick thing and more of a blackmail/lovers thing. In Girls Against Boys, Shae and Lu hook up because Shae has been wronged by men and Lu appears to just really enjoy killing dudes. Also, she has a psychotic glint in her eye and likes to dress in costumes. The two of them have a complex relationship that centers around: torturing men that have wronged them (or committed some general wrong) and disagreements about exactly how much murder constitutes overkill. One of these is a stock action premise that we’ve seen countless times before. The other one is (hopefully) a Russ Meyer film on a cocktail of methamphetamine and steroids.Advantage: Girls Against Boys
VillainTerrence Howard is his usual menacing self, and has a pretty good tagline, to boot. He seems like a worthy adversary to Farrell, and has the requisite movie-villain arsenal of disposable, incompetent henchmen. The final showdown between Farrell and Howard is a lock to end with a bloodied Farrell limping away from the scene as Howard breathes his last—and to feature at least one attempt at a memorable catchphrase.
The villain of Girls Against Boys seems to be the titular boys, which, while men are a pretty villainous gender generally speaking, doesn’t have quite the same heft as Terrence Howard delivering chilling speeches to Colin Farrell while his cronies burst in with shotguns. By the end, the “big reveal” is sure to be that Lu has been the villain all along, but that doesn’t stack up to Howard muttering “burn it down,” while making things explode.Advantage: Dead Man Down
Inventiveness of ViolenceThe trailer for Dead Man Down promises cool explosions, people with big guns, and Colin Farrell killing someone with his bare hands while Rapace watches through the window. There are lots and lots of explosions in this trailer, which is only two minutes long. Imagine how many there are going to be in the whole movie?
On the other hand, only one of these trailers offers the audience the memorable visual of a girl dressed in a tutu slicing a man in half with a katana. In terms of sheer imagination behind the violence, it might be an, ahem, tribute to Tarantino and Eli Roth, but at least there’s a modicum more thought than, “Yeah, and then another thing explodes.”Advantage: Girls Against Boys
CastThis is really no contest. Dead Man Down features an Academy Award nominee (Howard) and three seasoned veterans of the action film genre in Dominic Cooper, Rapace, and the sneaky-good Farrell. The four of them are talented, savvy, and know their way around snarling a lot (Farrell, Howard) and kissing in the rain (Farrell, Rapace). The female leads of Girls Against Boys are up-and-coming, and that could be a very good thing and expose a couple of rising stars. On the other hand, the most impressive credit between the two of them is Piranha 3DD.Advantage: Dead Man Down
DirectorOnce again, there’s a clear winner here. One of these men (Niels Arden Oplev) directed the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and for some reason it just makes sense that a Dane would know how to direct a good, dark revenge movie. The other (Austin Chick) has a name that Dickens might dream up for the director of Girls Against Boys and two tiny-budget indies to his name. While he might be the perfect man to direct an insanely bloody revenge movie, this is totally uncharted territory for him. Oplev seems like he probably knows what he’s doing, so he gets the edge.Advantage: Dead Man Down
The VerdictRevenge films are well-trod territory by any standards, and it really comes down to a campy wildcard versus what is sure to be a slick, competent representation of the genre. While Girls Against Boys is long on potential, Dead Man Down is much more likely to deliver the goods.Winner: Dead Man Down