Were it not for our foreknowledge of the culprit’s identity, most of “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” would play like a British version of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” You got your sex crime, your medical examiner’s report of forensic evidence, a psychologist’s expert opinion on the characteristics of the bad guy — all makings of a super-swell episode of America’s creepiest TV show!
Except “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” has a vigilante, not detectives, pursuing justice, and it’s boring, which “SVU” usually isn’t. Written by Trevor Preston and directed by Mike Hodges (“Croupier”), it’s absolutely nothing more than a simple revenge story, with nary a twist or innovation. A crime is committed, the perpetrator’s identity is discovered, revenge is sought. The end. I didn’t miss a minute of it, but I could swear the movie is missing a subplot, or a key scene, or SOMETHING that would explain why we ought to consider it anything more than the bafflingly plain underworld-justice flick it appears to be.
At first, we meet several different people, unsure how they connect. At times, we’re not even sure what they’re each doing individually, let alone how whatever they’re doing influences the others. Davey (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is a low-level drug dealer who somehow runs afoul of Boad (Malcolm McDowell), a more high-powered, tuxedoed drug dealer and all-around bad guy. His brother, Will (Clive Owen), formerly a tough guy and now a logger (what?), is reluctant to re-enter the world of vengeance and gunplay, but may be obligated to do so. Then there are some other men, mostly in suits, who drive around in cars and I’m not sure how they’re involved. The whole thing takes place at night, pretty much.
I’ll give it this: It has style. Set in the jazz-scored seedy underground of London, the film oozes with coolness, even if it doesn’t have anything to back it up.
C- (1 hr., 42 min.; )