The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
Mike Hodges' gritty new film noir "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" begins in enigma and snakes its way into stark clarity. At the beginning we don't even know who the characters are, or why they matter to one another. For Hodges, this isn't a matter of keeping us in the dark, but follows simple logic: The characters know who they are and don't have to tell one another, and we are outsiders who will need to fit it together.
Some of the reviews have complained that "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" is needlessly convoluted -- that we're asked to spend too much time trying to identify the characters and become oriented within the plot. That assumes we want a simple story, simply told, and indeed many mainstream movies and TV shows treat audiences as simpletons. But there is a tangible pleasure in following enigmatic characters through the shadows of their lives; deprived for a time of a plot, given characters who are not clearly labeled and assigned moral categories, we're allowed to make judgments based on their manner and speech.
Hodges begins with parallel stories. In South London, an ingratiating charmer named Davey (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) delivers drugs to parties, is popular on the circuit, picks up girls for a night, will steal anything not nailed down. Somewhere in a remote area, a man named Will (Clive Owen) lives alone in a van, is a manual laborer, finds a man who has been beaten and helps him. In a third story, a car cruises through London with a hard man in the back seat, surrounded by hired muscle.
These stories will converge. Davey is dragged off the street and raped. He apparently kills himself, and when Will learns of this he returns to London. They are brothers. Whatever Will Graham did in the old days, whoever he was, there are a lot of people in south London who remember and fear him, even though he's been off the scene for years. In Clive Owen, Hodges has an actor who suggests the buried mystery and menace the role requires.