I'll Sleep when I'm Dead

clive owen

I'll Sleep when I'm Dead
Made in: Great Britain
Language: English
Director: Mike Hodges
Starring: Clive Owen, Charlotte Rampling, Ken Stott, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Malcolm McDowell
Year: 2003

Synopsis: In this dour and vague British film, Will Graham (Clive Owen) is a recluse living in his van somewhere in the woods. It's a self-imposed exile, as he's trying to leave behind a life in London where he once worked in the (I think) criminal underground.

Yeah, I'm not really sure exactly what he did because it's never explained, but I suppose it had something to do with killing or scaring people.

Will's younger brother Davey (Johathan Rhys Meyers) stayed in London after Will's disappearance, and makes a living going to parties and selling drugs to dysfunctional yuppies and second-rate fashion models.

But one night an unsuspecting Davey gets kidnapped by a guy named Boad, played by Malcolm McDowell who's essentially an older and more boring version of his character from Clockwork Orange minus the Beethoven music and funny hat. Davey is violently assaulted, and later commits suicide in his bathtub.

Incidentally, Will returns to London and discovers what has happened. Vowing to discover the truth, and to track down whoever it was that attacked his brother, Will is joined by his old friend Turner (Ken Stott), a guy who gets drunk half the time, scrunches up his face and drops the F-bomb a lot. Why anyone would want to be friends with him is beyond me.

Will also reconnects with Helen (Charlotte Rampling), who doesn't drop the F-bomb, and whose history with Will, like many other elements in the film, is unclear.

As I'll Sleep when I'm Dead chugs along, we're supposed to guess whether or not Will has truly changed, or if he's still the same guy who's capable of doing the things in the past that have been vaguely alluded to. At least that's what I think the movie is about.

But I can almost guarantee you won't care- scroll down past the Google ad banner to learn why...

Thoughts, comments, inappropriate remarks: I'll Sleep when I'm Dead is well made from a technical standpoint and the cast is terrific. Clive Owen always plays a good character and it was nice to see Malcolm McDowell getting work ever since he blew himself up in a Star Trek film back in the 90s.

But overall...

Holy Flopdoodle Batman, this was a bad movie! While going for subtlety, the filmmakers simply created confusion. Of course, they didn't want to give everything away by outright telling you what was what. But they gotta give us something.

Okay, I see that Clive Owen was supposed to be some kind of killer. Fine. But simply mentioning that "you don't know what he's capable of!" or "don't underestimate him!" is not going to cut it. After all, the same can be said of the squirrel that steals seeds from the bird-feeder in my parents' backyard.

Show or mention a little tidbit that's specific, instead of leaving his connection with the other important characters annoyingly unclear.

Speaking of which, the other characters are shady middle-aged guys in suits mucking about in fancy sedans and talking on cell phones using tough-sounding but vague words that are supposed to mean something. Oh, and we're never told what these people actually do.

Other than the fact that they know who Will is, we're not sure if they used to work together, or if they're against each other, or whatever. One minute they're saying how scared they are of Will, and the next moment they're following him around spouting threats at him.

Malcolm McDowell's role is meant to bring some sort of psychological twist to the whole mess, but what he ends up becoming is just another disjointed ingredient in this not-quite-film-noir mud puddle. And what the heck is the film's title supposed to mean?

The biggest problem overall is that I'll Sleep when I'm Dead is sort of (but not really) a revenge story that tries, but doesn't quite know how, to be deeper than a straightforward action film. Visually, it looks sophisticated but that won't fool you for long.

The end result is neither an action film nor an intellectually stimulating thriller. What you end up with is a movie that plods along, making you feel depressed (or sleepy) without knowing why.

All the elements for a good story might be there, but none of them gel. Instead, we get a bunch of scenes that sort of float around in their own vacuums while great actors gets wasted.

Who would like this movie: If you absolutely must hear the F-bomb being dropped in a variety of regional English accents, this I'll Sleep when I'm Dead is for you. If not, then stay away. I don't think this movie would even make a decent drinking game...

(1 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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