Tuesday, April 23, 2024

“SLEEPING DOGS”

THE STORY – Suffering from memory loss, a former homicide detective tries to solve a brutal murder that he can’t recall. As he pieces together evidence from a decade-old investigation, he soon uncovers a sinister web of buried secrets tied to his forgotten past.

THE CAST – Russell Crowe, Karen Gillan, Tommy Flanagan, Martin Csokas & Elizabeth Blackmore

THE TEAM – Adam Cooper (Director/Writer) & Bill Collage (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 110 Minutes


Russell Crowe’s filmography for the past decade has been oddly fascinating. There’s an array of big-budget films, such as “Thor: Love & Thunder,” “The Mummy,” and “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.” There are Oscar-bait films that never fully materialized after their release, such as “Boy Erased” and “The Greatest Beer Run.” Then, these odd roles lead you to wonder why Crowe became involved with them, such as “Poker Face” and “Unhinged.” It’s hard to know what people expected of Crowe’s career post-2010, but it probably wasn’t this (excluding the “The Nice Guys,” of course). Now, he stars in Adam Cooper’s “Sleeping Dogs” in a role that is familiar to him and plays to his strengths as a performer. Unfortunately, what audiences get is Crowe sleepwalking through an uninteresting detective flick that fails to keep you engaged after the first five minutes.

“Sleeping Dogs” follows former detective Roy Freeman (Crowe), who’s suffering from debilitating memory loss due to a progressive cognitive illness. Roy, now on an experimental Alzheimer’s treatment, spends his days cramming down pills and looking at notes left everywhere in his house to get through the day. One day, Roy is approached by someone inquiring about a case from his past that he can hardly remember. Roy, now thinking he might have put an innocent man on death row, slowly begins tracing back every step in an old murder case that uncovers a conspiracy made by someone to stay hidden. What follows is a predictable mystery that plays out most tediously. Every performance in “Sleeping Dogs” varies from serviceable to abysmal, which doesn’t help viewers. Crowe stands above the rest, primarily due to how much the story revolves around his character. The Academy Award-winning actor’s performance isn’t memorable. Still, it’s one of the few things that makes this film digestible, even if he’s going through the regular motions we’ve seen from him before. Karen Gillan, unfortunately, is a victim of the film’s undercooked screenplay. Her incredibly one-note and stale performance leaves much to be desired, as the film desperately wants her to be this figure of intrigue. It’s always nice to see Scottish character actor Tommy Flanagan in something again, but at what cost?

“Sleeping Dogs” is discerningly adapted from E.O. Chriovici’s “The Book of Mirrors,” which features the detective character on whom Cooper has based Roy. Cooper deserves some credit for his decision-making regarding what to adapt for the screen. While balancing multiple stories, the book only focuses on this concept towards the end. Cooper wisely deems what would be tailored better in a more cinematic manner. Yet, despite making a standard detective film, “Sleeping Dogs” is difficult to follow. It’s not that the film has the most intricate story, but it’s delivered in such a convoluted way. Characterization is hollow for everyone besides Roy, whose only interesting moments are at the start of the film when you see him struggle to adjust to living with this disease. Everyone else falls to the wayside and is there to deliver boring exposition or to move the plot forward. What you’re left with are many revelations that neither excite nor satisfy.

This is also Cooper’s first time behind the camera. While there are numerous well-intentioned attempts, unfortunately, his directorial debut. doesn’t pan out. One example is through the film’s jarringly unfocused editing. Cooper attempts to give audiences a sense of stepping into Freeman’s shoes such as showcasing flashes of scattered memories, with an attempt to leave audiences in a perplexed state. Instead, the effect is baffling. Scenes feel like they are just stitched together as events play out unceremoniously, which is not helped by pacing that moves at a snail’s pace. Another puzzling decision is a whole flashback sequence that takes up what feels like a solid portion of the film’s runtime. This entire sequence alone derails the pacing, regurgitates exposition, and sets an importance on Gillan’s character to which it never lives up. Gillan’s character, Laura Baines, feels as if she was molded in the vein of the traditional archetype of femme fatale characters from classic noirs. By the time the eventual mystery is revealed, not only are you ready for the film to end, but it feels as if all the potential of Crowe and Gillan’s characters are just squandered.

“Sleeping Dogs” isn’t reinventing the wheel, but, at the very least, it could have been entertaining. It’s a detective film whose overall mystery never lives up to what it so desperately wants to be, as it manages to get almost everything wrong throughout its nearly two-hour runtime. Despite Crowe’s dwindling but still magnetic screen presence, this is a prime example of why not every novel needs to be adapted into a film.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Russell Crowe, while phoning it in, still maintains a somewhat enjoyable screen presence.

THE BAD - A thinly held-together script with bland, uninteresting characters and a mystery that never keeps your attention. Adam Cooper's direction isn't helpful, as it's bogged down by questionable decisions and editing that makes the movie feel stretched out beyond belief. Every performance ranges from solid to unwatchable.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 3/10

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Giovanni Lago
Giovanni Lago
Devoted believer in all things cinema and television. Awards Season obsessive and aspiring filmmaker.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Russell Crowe, while phoning it in, still maintains a somewhat enjoyable screen presence.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>A thinly held-together script with bland, uninteresting characters and a mystery that never keeps your attention. Adam Cooper's direction isn't helpful, as it's bogged down by questionable decisions and editing that makes the movie feel stretched out beyond belief. Every performance ranges from solid to unwatchable.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>3/10<br><br>"SLEEPING DOGS"