Dominic Purcell and Colin Farrell try to out do each other in the poorly-dressed stakes

COLIN FARRELL has had an interesting career.

Early om, it seemed that the Castleknock bad-boy would spend his career shackled with the label Castleknock bad-boy.

As well known at the outset for who he was sleeping with as his actual job, Farrell has nonetheless proven to be head and shoulders above many of his peers in terms of sheer talent.

From his blistering Hollywood debut in Tigerland, Farrell has turned in an impressive slate of performances.

Minority Report, Phone Booth, The New World and In Bruges spring to mind, with his turn in Irish ensemble classic Intermission a personal favourite.

With Dead Man Down, Farrell begins the first of four 2013 releases and, on a personal level, the Dublin 15 native sets the bar pretty high.

Here, Farrell plays Victor, an efficiently brutal gangland enforcer who has infiltrated the gang of demented crime-lord Alphonse (played with delirious glee by the always-excellent Terence Howard).

We as the audience, of course, know that Victor’s motivations have less to do with his love of the criminal lifestyle than they do with gaining revenge for the deaths of his family at the hands of Alphonse’s thugs some years before.

This being the first English-language work of Niels Arden Oplev, the director of the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy, violence is often not too far away and every character has an abundance of shades of grey.

The arrival on the scene of Oplev’s Lisbeth Salander, Noomi Rapace, sparks the film to life as her Beatrice draws Victor into a revenge plot of her own, casting a pall over Victor’s own plans.

It’s here that the film slightly loses the run of itself as the script becomes more and more complex, with all of the lead characters wrestling with moral dilemmas.

In truth, it feels like a modern day version of The Long Good Friday, with Howard’s Alphonse acting as a stand in for Bob Hoskins.

Strangely, the presence of Rapace holds the film back somewhat.

In her best English-speaking role yet, she delivers a solid performance, but the film’s tonal similarities with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy mean that all the while she is on screen, you’re expecting her to be meaner, to show the demented streak of Lisbeth.

It is akin to casting Sylvester Stallone as a boxing agent. Sure, he could do it, but all the audience will see is Rocky.

It makes you wonder how good the film could have been had Rapace and Farrell’s characters switched places.

That’s not to take away from Farrell’s performance, which is indeed a fine one.

He handles this kind of silent fury brilliantly and has seemingly found his comfort zone in mid-budget films, burned by the one-two of Alexander and Miami Vice.

Overall, the film is a decent calling card for Oplev and Rapace and a piece of excellent work from Farrell, Howard and the under rated Dominic Purcell.