Sleeping Dogs (2024)

Sleeping Dogs Review

Sleeping Dogs (2024)

The Russell Crowe renaissance is just around the corner. Or so I’ve been saying since “The Nice Guys”; who knows, I could be wrong. What’s undeniable is that he’s at a point in his career where it feels like he has nothing left to prove; more often than not, he’s the best thing about whatever movie he’s in. (He made “The Pope’s Exorcist” yeah, I hope they make five more too much better than it would have been with anyone else in that part.) It really just comes down to the right filmmaker having faith in his natural ability. That’s why Adam Cooper’s “Sleeping Dogs” was so enticing; it looked like Crowe’s “Memento,” a twisty noir that plays with memory and perception through a very unreliable narrator. He gives this drowsy film more than it deserves, but now I’m worried that this might send him in the opposite direction toward the world of cheapie VOD thrillers that used to be more discerning actors’ bread and butter (sorry, Travolta fans).  He’s better than “Sleeping Dogs.” They all are.

Based on The Book of Mirrors by E.O. Chirovici, “Sleeping Dogs” opens with its protagonist Roy Freeman (Crowe) deep into the waking nightmare of dementia; he has notes taped around his house that remind him how to make toast and what his name is. Of course, this is going to be one of those films with a “plot convenient illness”; such an egregious bit of illness exploitation if you ask me: one minute it holds back the protagonist when the plot needs it to, and then it disappears when we need things to build momentum again. Roy is also undergoing some radical treatments where they cut open his brain or something because why not? This will allow for a traditional cop character to investigate a crime he once closed as if he’s doing so for the first time. And anyone who’s ever seen a movie knows that he will re-discover some things that he forgot for a reason.

The re-investigation is launched by the imminent death row execution of Isaac Samuel (Pacharo Mzembe), convicted of the bloody murder of professor and researcher Dr. Joseph Wieder (Marton Csokas) ten years prior. Samuel is obviously innocent no movie otherwise and flashbacks reveal that he was there when Wieder was murdered, but didn’t see his assailant. This sends Roy back into the case, bringing him back into the path of his former partner Jimmy Remis (Tommy Flanagan, trying to out-grizzle his co-star), who just keeps telling Roy to let sleeping dogs lie; get it? That’s the title.

Certainly Roy, though he is living with a condition that has destroyed his life, reopens the case from scratch – starting with recently deceased and suspicious-looking Richard Finn (Harry Greenwood), who wrote a true crime memoir about the Wieder murder. Finn’s partner Laura Baines (Karen Gillan) was Wieder’s research assistant—maybe more than research partners and she is clearly one of the key figures in what happened that night. Cooper splits his film into a long flashback of the weeks leading up to the crime as seen/voiced by Finn, but we’re never sure how seriously we’re supposed to take it; not only can’t you buy writing that describes Laura as “one of those rare unicorns who knew everything about everything,” but also Finn might be playing with the artistic license of his form or may not have all the facts himself.

A case unpacked through a dead man’s writing as filtered through an amnesiac cop could make for good fiction on the page, but it becomes almost impossible to track in film language. The script by Cooper and Bill Collage consistently indulges in incoherent plotting and inconsistent characters, as if they think they can do so because there isn’t a single reliable narrator within these walls. That’s fine, but it also means you get scenes like this which play like utter nonsense, and way too much that lands like a hammer meeting a nail: Roy does puzzles to keep his mind sharp, yes, but also because he is literally piecing together both his memory and the case. And then he talks about doing puzzles in voiceover just in case you didn’t hear him say it.

This is a movie where every genius explains their discoveries about repressed trauma like they invented repression itself. Most people look lost or annoyed in almost every scene, never genuine; Crowe rumbles through another movie with deceptive ease, finding moments to ground even sad-sack shit shows like this one. My hope is that “Sleeping Dogs” wakes him up, and reminds him of the actor he still can be.

Watch Sleeping Dogs For Free On Gomovies.

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