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I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Clive Owen, Charlotte Rampling, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Malcolm McDowell
Director: Mike Hodges
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 103 Minutes
Release Date: November 16, 2004

"Look at what I've become. I sometimes don't talk to another living soul for days, or trust no one, nothing. It's grief for a life wasted."

Film ***1/2

Mike Hodges, who could very much be considered the Martin Scorsese of Britain, made one of the most popular revenge thrillers with 1971's Get Carter. Although the plot outline of Hodges' latest piece, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, isn't all that different from the earlier film, it does happen to carry a much darker, sinister edge. The result is one of the more chilling and effective crime thrillers I've seen in recent memory.

By first glance at the movie's opening segments, we're not quite sure where this story is headed. It opens with a character named Davey (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), a likeable lad who's also a hard partier and a drug dealer. After swinging from party to party, and enjoying a love fling with a beauty, is set up by some hoods, taking into an alley, and becomes the victim of a horrifying and brutal act.

Not too long after this incident, young Davey is so traumatized by the incident that he goes home and commits suicide. The lad's death catches the attention of friends and colleagues. More importantly, it becomes something of a bigger issue once older brother, Will Graham (Clive Owen), discovers for himself.

Will has led a socially isolated life for the past three years. At one point, he was the deadliest and most intimidating mob enforcer to walk the streets of London. He gave up the profession for a more quiet life in the English countryside, working as a tree laborer. His brother's death has clearly given him more than enough reason to consider returning to his roots.

Will's sudden return to the city stirs up some uneasiness in some who knew him in his prime. He soon hooks up with his former crew of dispatchers to help get some answers. Though this advantage should play a role in getting the attention of the culprit responsible for the assault on his brother, a local car dealer named Boad (Malcolm McDowell); it will take an act of confrontation to get the man shaking in his boots.

The main attraction here is the stellar performance of lead Clive Owen. Owen is a big star overseas, and is already being considered to step in as the next James Bond, in addition to Jude Law; I couldn't see any other actor doing the role justice better than Owen. Aside from starring in another crime thriller from director Hodges, Croupier, Owen has also gained some notice here in the states, with roles in The Bourne Identity and most recently, the heavily underrated King Arthur.

What Owen does in this film is construct a masterful performance through subtle emotion. Will is a man of few words, whose soul is overcome with guilt for the life he has leaded. When he accepts that he must extract revenge, we completely understand why it must be done. Owen's final confrontation with McDowell is a striking and revealingly powerful moment.

Though I must say that I wasn't prepared for the disturbing elements delivered here, I can easily say that it serves the purpose of the revenge plot as very well fitting. This is, at best, not a movie for the faint of heart.

Video ***1/2

Paramount's anamorphic presentation of this moody crime piece is extremely well handled. The best moments come in the sequences set in around downtown London, which is all done mostly at night. Despite slight softness in other numerous darkly lit scenes, I give this presentation credit for making the most of what could've easily been a flawed delivery.

Audio ***

Since the film is essentially a dialogue-heavy piece, there's only so much that the 5.1 mix can work with. However, the dialogue delivery is very well executed, and is ultimately clear, while several set pieces allow for some nice dynamically leveled surround sound.

Features 1/2*

Only a helping of bonus trailers for additional Paramount titles which precede the movie.

Summary:

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead is as grim a crime thriller as you're likely to come across. The overall effect of the film, along with Clive Owen's strong presence makes for quite a riveting showcase.

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