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I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
cast: Clive Owen, Charlotte Rampling, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, and Malcolm McDowell

director: Mike Hodges

103 minutes (15) 2004
widescreen ratio 16:9
Momentum DVD Region 2 rental
[released 23 May]

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
London gangster Will Graham (Clive Owen) turned his back on his life years ago, and now scrapes a living as a casual labourer touring the country in a camper van. Then a sudden fear for his younger brother's safety sends him racing back to London - only to discover that harmless wide boy Davey has taken his own life after a traumatic attack. Will feels he has no choice but to find the man who drove his brother to suicide - but that's going to mean embracing violence again, and the underworld are already conspiring to get rid of him before he upsets the delicate balance of their empires...

Veteran director Hodges' latest film bears a substantial resemblance to his most famous, Get Carter, both in plot, and in style and tone. Trevor Preston's terse, minimalist screenplay illustrates a glamorous, ruthless world inhabited by tough men with no way to show their true feelings, and women condemned to hover on the fringes of a man's world. And, unsurprisingly from Hodges, it looks fantastic, and conjures a real sense of danger and menace.

But strangely, it places its most shocking scene very early on, showing us the reason for Davey's death up front. Will is left chasing information that's practically old hat to us, diminishing his reaction when he does solve the mystery, and the flimsiness of the reason for the attack undercuts his confrontation with the perpetrator. Clive Owen, an actor of extraordinary presence and authority, is tremendous as the simmeringly controlled Will, but there's no scene to provide the explosive release of rage and grief that the character is crying out for, leaving him playing at the same emotional level almost throughout the film. The abrupt, almost unresolved ending is daring, but runs the risk of leaving the audience confused and unfulfilled.

The supporting cast is excellent, including big names like Malcolm McDowell, Charlotte Rampling, and an under-used Ken Stott, and there's a particularly affecting performance from Jamie Foreman as Davey's best mate, a lovable chancer suddenly way out of his depth.

The film is a good crack at a classic British crime thriller, but one that feels like it's missing something small but very important - a little more human connection, perhaps, a little more heart. That said; it's a feast of fine acting and some very fine observational writing (look out for the stoner taxi driver), and well worth searching out.
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