I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

first_imgLike Mike Hodges’ best-known film, the 1971 thriller Get Carter, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’s central premise sees a man out to avenge his brother’s death. Unfortunately thirty years have passed since Get Carterwas made, and the majority of the filmic conceits that Hodges transfers to his more recent film have passed into parody. The noirish touches – the cornball title, the opening credits (black lettering caught in a lamplight glare) – recall postmodern pastiches such as Stephen Frears’ Gumshoe. And the portentous dialogue, which might have rung out like urban poetry in a pulp fable such as Polanski’s Chinatown, sounds plain clumsy when filtered through Cockney dialects as thick as toffee. Worst of all is the film’s protagonist, Will Graham. Clive Owen, arguably one of Britain’s most charismatic leading men, does his best with the role, but even the most nuanced performance fails to save this walking cliché. When Will snarls, dead-pan, “I’m always on the move. I trust nothing, no-one”, it serves only to inspire a kind-of collective eyeroll in the audience. Even if this kind of speech had not been given by Pee-wee Herman (in Peewee’s Big Adventurehe warns: “You don’t want to get mixed up with a guy like me. I’m a loner. A rebel.”) it would deserve to be mocked, along with any narcissistic would-be touch nut who feels the need to describe himself to anyone who will listen. And in fact, the film’s potential strength lies in its undermining of such bravado. The inclusion of a male rape, serves to shake the macho blockades erected, if you’ll pardon the pun, by the film’s innumerable hard men, causing them to question their own masculinity as well as the victim’s. On hearing about the rape from Will, Davey’s friend Mickser splutters, “Davey was… He was not bent! Fuck you!” The choice of profanity is certainly revealing of the close proximity between sex and violence in male culture. But such subtleties are overshadowed by over-explicit explanations and heavy-handed imagery, such as the rested inserts of the gun that, in an image of Freudian clarity, Mickser stows in his glove compartment. Preston seems to have taken whatever research he did on male rape and cut and pasted it into the middle of the movie. Two encounters, one with a coroner, the other with a councillor, abandon dialogue almost entirely, halting the narrative for a extended seminar on the psychology of rape. So while Hodges’ intentions may be honourable, the disappointing result is that I’ll Sleep When I’m Deadends up looking suspiciously like a certain late-night edition of Hollyoaks.ARCHIVE: 6th week TT 2004last_img read more