Filled with style and cool, 1999's Croupier re-established director Mike Hodges as a master of the British crime flick, and made a star out of Clive Owen. Fans of that film will be a natural audience for this latest foray into English gangsterism, and boy, are they going to be disappointed! Borrowing the plotline from Hodges' classic 1971 flick Get Carter--a mobster seeks revenge for his brother's death--the director has crafted a film whose pacing gives new meaning to the term "sluggish," and actually makes the charismatic Owen seem boring.

Bearded and scruffy-looking, Owen stars in I'll Sleep When I'm Dead as Will Graham, a former mobster who left the profession after suffering a nervous breakdown. He's working at a Welsh logging camp when informed that his coke-dealing younger brother (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) has been sodomized and murdered. Returning to London to track down the boy's killer, Graham reconnects briefly with ex-wife Charlotte Rampling, and discovers that the killer is sleazeball Boad (Malcolm McDowell). In the meantime, crime boss Frank Turner (Ken Stott), concerned that Graham has returned to take over his gangster throne, runs around London trying to decide whether or not he should kill his supposed rival.

All this might have worked if Hodges hadn't filled his film with an insufferable layer of existential dread. Except for a few spiffy, dialogue-heavy sequences featuring Turner and other colorful hooligans, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead is overloaded with a sense of suicidal angst and neo-noir bleakness. Watching it is about as much fun as wearing a hair shirt.

Even worse, Owen gives a hollow-eyed, nearly comatose performance that is an astonishingly bad piece of work. It undercuts any sympathy a viewer might have for the character, and robs this handsome actor of the magnetism that has caused some observers to nominate him as the next James Bond. Of course, Owen couldn't have done this without Hodges' approval, so you have to wonder what these two were thinking when they shot the film.

Trevor Preston's ham-handed screenplay, filled with occasionally confusing flashbacks, doesn't help matters. There's even an ending that leaves the audience in confusion, wondering whether Graham exacted his revenge or not.

One can only hope that Hodges will make other, better films, and this disaster will only be a bump in the road for Owen's ascending career.

-Lewis Beale