I saw Sin City again a few days ago and, afterwards, I dropped by Borders and noticed I'll Sleep When I'm Dead was out on DVD.
I remembered very badly wanting to see this movie when it was in theatres, but I'd never gotten the chance. I was very intrigued by Roger Ebert's review. Maybe because it was a British film noir, maybe because it was a good movie featuring Malcolm McDowell in a good, sinister role. Maybe it was because it stars Clive Owen, for whom I had a mysterious fondness even before I'd seen him in any movies (perhaps this is explained by the bit of trivia off his IMDb profile; "Is a huge David Bowie fan and has called singer 'the biggest musical influence on my life.' He says, 'I don't know why, but no one else has ever had such an effect on me. I didn't have most of his work. I had everything.' In the 1970s, when Bowie was changing his appearance and style with every album, Owen would re-dye his hair whatever color Bowie's was at the time.")
Anyway, I felt it an omen somehow that I should be looking at a Clive Owen film noir after having just come from seeing Sin City, so I bought it.
It's a good movie, and considerably more true to the grim existential spirit of film noir than is Sin City.
It is not remotely what one would call a thriller, in spite of being mistakenly marketed that way. It's the story of Will (Clive) coming back to London after having been living reclusively in the forest for three years, attempting to avoid his past as a fierce crime boss.
But his brother's suicide in London brings Will back and into a quest for revenge, and inevitably amongst his old enemies and friends. It's certainly a noir idea, and is enhanced a bit by the man seeking revenge for what is unquestionably a suicide.
Perhaps the most innovative element director Mike Hodges brings to the table is the tone. When I say it's not a thriller, I ought to stress that it's practically the opposite pole of thriller. It's quiet, ruminating atmosphere of Will walking about London simply dwelling in his hellish endeavour, all the more hellish for how unsentimental and coldly the movie puts things. Really, perfect for the main theme.
Good movie. I'd probably say more except I'm feeling the absence of coffee . . .