I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

Director Mike Hodges and screenwriter Trevor Preston's dark revenge tale strips its crime-story cliches of their hopped-up energy and seedy glamour, leaving nothing but sordid sadness. Once notorious as the hardest man prowling the mean streets of unforgiving Brixton, a rough South London neighborhood, Will Graham (Clive Owen, star of Hodges' 1999 CROUPIER)...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Director Mike Hodges and screenwriter Trevor Preston's dark revenge tale strips its crime-story cliches of their hopped-up energy and seedy glamour, leaving nothing but sordid sadness. Once notorious as the hardest man prowling the mean streets of unforgiving Brixton, a rough South London neighborhood, Will Graham (Clive Owen, star of Hodges' 1999 CROUPIER) collapsed under the weight of his own savagery and retreated to rural Wales where, his identity concealed under a scruffy beard, he lives out of a van and picks up casual laboring jobs. He's severed all ties with his old life, and not even his handsome younger brother, Davey (Jonathan Rhys Meyers); his girlfriend, restaurateur Helen (Charlotte Rampling); or his fiercely loyal subordinate, Mickser (Jamie Foreman), has heard from him in more than a year. Dapper Davey has carved himself a comfortable niche dealing party drugs to London's rich young things, mingling easily with the moneyed and titled, and lifting their wallets and expensive trinkets for fun. But Davey's cheeky manner and smooth self-confidence attract the attention of coldly vicious crime lord Boad (Malcolm McDowell), whose respectable veneer barely covers the volatile hostility beneath. To teach upstart Davey a lesson, Boad and two of his thugs abduct and rape him; brutalized and humiliated, Davey climbs into a bath and cuts his own throat. The coroner's report is open-and-shut: death by suicide. Meanwhile, sensing that something has happened to his brother, Will returns to London and launches his own investigation; he never doubts that Davey took his own life, but won't rest until he finds out who and what drove him to it. Although the basic plot recalls Hodges' first and best-known film, the cruelly nihilistic GET CARTER (1971), this gloomy slow burn of a film is less a thriller than an icily detached examination of gangster culture and the near-hysterical fear of weakness, crudely but vividly construed as femininity, that drives it. Preston's script is a frustrating jumble of provocatively elliptical exchanges and awkwardly obvious exposition — Will spends far too much time listening to experts explain the dynamics of sexual assault — but Hodges transforms South London's unlovely streets, overpasses and alleys into a murkily seductive labyrinth that swallows anyone cocky enough to challenge its shadowy convolutions.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Director Mike Hodges and screenwriter Trevor Preston's dark revenge tale strips its crime-story cliches of their hopped-up energy and seedy glamour, leaving nothing but sordid sadness. Once notorious as the hardest man prowling the mean streets of unforgiv… (more)

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