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'Dead Man Down' has lifeless rhythm

| Friday, March 8, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

It's a tossup which of these perfectly crafted bits of patter in the unwitting gangland noir parody “Dead Man Down” takes the cake for over-the-top irrelevance.

Do you want “Rabbits don't come in chartreuse”?

Or how about “Thank you for returning my Tupperware”?

The former is delivered by Colin Farrell, “Dead Man Down's” taciturn, tough-guy protagonist, a hitman who has made the acquaintance of his emotionally and physically scarred apartment building neighbor, Beatrice (Noomi Rapace). She gives him a shocking-green rabbit's foot for good luck. Farrell does his best to sound Bogie-esque as he offers his matter-of-fact observation. If there's irony there, it's lost on Beatrice. And on Farrell.

The Tupperware line belongs to Isabelle Huppert, the great French actress consigned to a few short scenes here as Beatrice's impossibly snoopy mom. She and Beatrice live on the 18th floor of a building in Queens, where they can stare from the windows at the Manhattan skyline — or stare straight into the apartment of Victor (Farrell).

“Dead Man Down” teems with thugs and mugs, with references to dead Jamaicans and troublesome Albanians. The film has been directed in a murky, rhythmless fashion by Niels Arden Oplev, who directed Rapace in the original Swedish-language “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

Farrell's Victor is the aide-de-camp to a crime lord named Alphonse (Terrence Howard), who holes up in a manor and is increasingly on edge, thanks to a series of cryptic notes and menacing cut-out photographs he's been getting lately.

And then Pauly, another mobster, shows up in a basement freezer, a very cold stiff. Unsettling, no?

You don't need to be a genius to figure out that Victor may not be the loyal soldier Alphonse takes him for. Beatrice figures it out soon enough, trailing Victor as he sets up his sniper's rifle on a building roof.

But it takes Darcy (Dominic Cooper), Victor's gangmate and best buddy, almost the entire movie to arrive at the same conclusion. His moment of revelation prompts yet another screenwriting gem: “You lied to me!” he says to Victor. “The godfather of my son!”

Talk about betrayal.

Steven Rea writes about movies for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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