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I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead Is Wide Awake on Blu-ray!

Feature Presentations: Episode 80

Welcome to this column dedicated to my appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead from Imprint Films.

Davey sits in the back of a cab with his left hand against his face. The back of the cab has beads hanging from the ceiling.

As a disclaimer of transparency, Imprint Films provided a review copy of I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead for this episode of Feature Presentations. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Within the last year, as of this writing, director Mike Hodges departed this Earth. He’s a director whose name I’ve heard of multiple times but had yet to see a film within his filmography. His 1971 debut movie, the crime thriller Get Carter, was always at the top of my “must-see” list, but for one reason or another eluded me. When Coupier hit theaters in 2000, it piqued my interest by diving into the seedy underworld of casinos. Again, another movie I needed to check out sidestepped me.

The life of a cinephile feels like you’re behind the cinematic eight-ball and continuously playing catch-up.

Not sure if it had anything to do with Mike Hodges passing, but in the past 12 months, I can now say I’ve crossed off Get Carter and Croupier from my list. I can add his final film: I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, to my “watched” list.

Playing as a similarly-themed crime picture in the vein of the director’s debut cinematic offering, Clive Owen plays Will Graham, a former gangster who has left his life behind. When his brother is found dead, he returns to bury his sibling and get to the bottom of the matter.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead is a pitch-black-tinged slice of film noir that doesn’t play out as simply as the plot description suggests. Sure, there’s some avenging afoot, but those seeking a two-hour retribution revenge flick filled with shootouts and tension-filled sequences might find themselves disappointed in the almost-lackadaisical pace at which the story unfolds.

Will stands outside of a gate looking at a dog.

I admit, when the credits rolled: I wanted to tear I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead down for multiple reasons, most dealing with the script. The structural setup of the film seems to want to telegraph how the plot will unfold. And, if you’ve seen more than a handful of cinematic offerings, it’s simplistic in figuring out how the movie moves from scene to scene.

What threw me for a loop was the lack of plot thread resolutions.

Before I began typing this article, I sat with the movie for a day before giving it a second chance and rewatching it, now understanding how the story develops. I can’t say the second watch turned the film into a masterpiece, but it gave me an understanding of what director Mike Hodges and writer Trevor Preston sought. More of I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead works than it doesn’t, and for those seeking a modern-day piece of edgy noir where morality lines are blurred and clean resolutions are hard to come by, this might be your bag.

Imprint Films took the reins on this Blu-ray release and hit the sweet spot of balancing the right amount of bonus material with film analysis.

Before we get to that, the package comes in a slipcase with one version of the film’s promotional art. The Blu-ray case features an alternate artwork design on one side of the art wrap and a still from the movie on the other.

Getting into the features, Imprint Films ported over an archival audio commentary with director Mike Hodges and writer Trevor Preston. Since neither man is no longer with us, I appreciate this track not getting lost in time, especially with how detailed their discussion is. Both men speak in measured tones and have a back-and-forth chat, each offering plenty of film specifics.

Will and Mickster look outside, through a fence.

While the commentary occasionally dips into the standards of how the film’s talent came aboard the production or location scouting—what I enjoyed most is Hodges discussing his filmmaking techniques and Preston discussing the themes woven throughout the script’s narrative. Hodges discusses his usage of long takes in I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead and using the visual medium to convey plot and character details without force-feeding the audience. Preston details the lack of dialogue in the script and how he based many of the locations and people on those he’s run across throughout his lifetime. Both men are familiar with England and the streets of London and those who inhabit the areas, especially during the nighttime. Each works well off one other. And, for someone like myself who has yet to visit England, their commentary is equal parts insightful and engaging.

Also included on the disc is a BBC documentary, Mike Hodges and I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, covering the film’s production. Shot during filming, documentaries like these are some of my favorites. Instead of a standard batch of controlled Hollywood interviews interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage, this places the viewer on set with the director, actors, and production team.

While there are some interview moments, each is done in an almost off-the-cuff style with the actors and crew during filming, giving this documentary a less-polished but more informational feel. Some of my favorite moments occur when the feature presents clips from the finished film and the behind-the-scenes videos shot during that time. It’s a welcome feast for cinephiles who enjoy the nuances of film production and the day-to-day life on set.

Imprint Films includes two deled scenes—one with optional commentary by Hodges and Preston. Neither is significant and rightfully cut, but the one featuring the writer and director’s comments offers slightly more depth for one of the film’s supporting characters. Having the commentary there to understand why the scene exists and the reason for its removal is a welcome bonus.

The package comes to a close with the film’s theatrical trailer.

Will sits in his Jaguar as the car goes through the car wash.

And there you have it! I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead is an unusual entry in the British crime genre. It’s dark, brutish, and moody in all the right places, but the pacing and its almost aversion towards thrilling the audience may turn some away. It may not be the crime film you expect, but it’s one that might stick with you. Imprint Films did a terrific job collecting a modest but insightful amount of supplemental material onto this disc to create a Blu-ray package for those willing to give the movie a chance (or a second chance).

Written by Robert Chipman

Robert is a lifelong cinephile and has had an admiration with film for as long as he can remember. When he's not checking out the most recent theatrical release, viewing a movie on one of a 1,000,000,000 streaming services or picking up the latest physical media disc, he's trying and failing to make it in Hollywood as a screenwriter. He also has a weird fascination with Stephen Dorff. Make of that what you will. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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