I'll Sleep When I'm Dead


Reviewed by: Nick Jones

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
"Never once opts for a more dynamic approach and thus fails to create even an ounce of tension."

Sleep when you're dead? You'll be bored to death before the credits have rolled.

Take away the gritty taboo subject of male rape and Mike Hodge's latest effort has nothing left to offer. Returning to the "vengeful brother" premise that brought him recognition with the Seventies cult hit Get Carter, the sixtysomething director tries to return to his magic formula for what will perhaps be his last film before he is put out to pasture. However, on this evidence, his directorial style seems to have aged very badly and the pace is so unforgivably slow and tired that many viewers will switch off before the end. They won't miss much either.

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The story centres around Will Graham (Clive Owen), a gangster from London who, for reasons that are never explained, has abandoned his criminal life for an anonymous existence working in a forest. He returns to his roots three years later to find out that his brother, a small-time drug dealer and thief called Davey (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) has recently been found dead in a blood-filled bath. When the post-mortem reveals that Davey was raped the night before he killed himself, Will sets out to find the perpetrator.

Not content with taking on a convoluted plot and a wholly unlikely ending (just wait for the motivation behind the rape - priceless), Hodges adds to his list of problems with some seriously misguided directorial decisions. Clearly a fan of slow, long shots and tedious silences, he never once opts for a more dynamic approach and thus fails to create even an ounce of tension. It doesn't help that the big name cast try to outdo each other with their low-key performances.

Hodges shouldn't take the full rap for this celluloid carcass, however. His partner in crime, Trevor Preston, needs be held accountable for dialogue bordering on the diabolical. Yes, believe it or not this is the man who wrote The Sweeney and Minder, but that was a long time ago when he was young and "with it".

There are some terrible attempts at comedy that smack of a middle-age writer trying to get "down" with the kids and falling flat on his face in the process. When Davey jumps into a taxi shortly before he is raped, the driver is an unlicensed, spliff-smoking fool who is apparently so stoned he is surprised when Davey tells him that he drives an orange car. Hilarious!

Moments later the car breaks down and he decides to move to New York. He jumps out with a ghetto blaster and all of a sudden we're in the Eighties?! The scene is terribly acted, funny for all the wrong reasons and any tension that was supposed to have been built prior to Davey's brutal rape is lost.

So there we have it; the film's pivotal scene steamrollered into a state of flatness which suits the rest of this godforsaken mess of a movie. From here on out, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead sticks to what it does best. It gets worse.

Reviewed on: 01 Jun 2005
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Once a gangster, always a gangster?
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Trinity ***

Director: Mike Hodges

Writer: Trevor Preston

Starring: Clive Owen, Charlotte Rampling, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Malcolm McDowell, Ken Stott, Jamie Foreman, Sylvia Syms, Alexander Morton, Damian Dibben, Geoff Bell

Year: 2003

Runtime: 104 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


EIFF 2003

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