Sleeping Dogs Poster

Sleeping Dogs (2024) Review

Based on E.O. Chirovici’s novel The Book of Mirrors, Sleeping Dogs opens with a look at Roy Freeman (Russell Crowe, Land of Bad, Gladiator) and his apartment. It’s an apartment with notes taped everywhere, even on the TV Dinner he’s about to cook. They’re reminders, meant to help him cope with his Alzheimer’s while an experimental treatment he opted for starts to work. Neither the operation nor the notes prevented him from microwaving the TV remote, however.

He’s contacted by Emily Dietz (Kelly Greyson, Return to the Hiding Place, Fortress) from Project Clean Hands, a group devoted to freeing the wrongly convicted. They’re interested in the case of Isaac Samuel (Pacharo Mzembe, Black Site, Sinbad and the Minotaur) a death row inmate Freeman arrested and helped convict for the brutal murder of college professor Joseph Wieder (Marton Csokas, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Xena: Warrior Princess).

I think they missed a great opportunity here by not making him the Joseph Wieder who invented bodybuilding and casting a load of larger than life 80s action heroes. But that’s just my opinion.

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The case itself seemed open and shut. Weider had testified against Samuel in a previous case, and he confessed to the killing. Now, he claims he was there, but somebody else got to the victim first. Strung out and in shock, he was coerced into confessing by Freeman and his partner Jimmy Remis (Tommy Flanagan, There Are No Saints, The Wave). Having been told that puzzles and other mental exercises will make the treatment more effective, he pulls out his records of the investigation.

As a storyteller, I am drawn to characters in crisis. The nature of that crisis can take on many forms – identity, mortality, faith – but at the centre, there’s always someone who is struggling to make sense of their life. Someone who goes on a journey from a lost or fragmented state, to one where they can begin to restore themselves. This is very much the story of our protagonist, Roy Freeman.

Adam Cooper

First time director Adam Cooper adapted the novel along with Bill Collage, whom he’d previously collaborated on the scripts for Assassin’s Creed and The Transporter Refuelled with. Sleeping Dogs’ story is told through Freeman’s present day investigation and the flashbacks it triggers, as well as visualizations from a manuscript Richard Finn (Harry Greenwood, The Dustwalker, Carnifex) was writing on the murder and other sources.

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It’s a familiar story, with potential witnesses turning up dead under suspicious circumstances, double crosses and things remembered that that Freeman and others would rather have stayed forgotten. There’s also a love triangle and a femme fatale, in this case Laura Baines (Karen Gillan, In a Valley of Violence, Doctor Who). While it follows a fairly familiar neo-noir path, Sleeping Dogs does have enough twists and variations on the theme that it manages to deliver a few surprises along the way and make you rethink your choice of whodunit more than once.

Russell Crowe gives a great performance as the central character, struggling to put the pieces together ten years after the fact and finding himself getting deeper into a mess he may have helped create. Flanagan is equally solid as his former partner, who is considerably less enthusiastic about digging up the past, and the two play off of each other quite well. While her character is a bit more of an archetype, Karen Gillan gives a convincing performance as a woman who seemingly can get any man to do her bidding.

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The tech credits are solid as well, with the cinematography of Ben Nott (Daybreakers, Skin Trade) and art director Colin Robertson (Jack Irish, Body Melt) making sure the flashback scenes look authentic. It’s all topped off by a score from David Hirschfelder (Fire Front, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole) that neatly accentuates the on-screen happenings.

While it doesn’t rewrite the genre playbook, Sleeping Dogs is an entertaining thriller that will keep viewers entertained and guessing for a couple of hours.

The Avenue will release Sleeping Dogs in theatres on March 22nd.

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