Starring a Kiwi, directed by a Kiwi and packed to the gunwales with Kiwi talent, this is definitely no Hollywood hyperbole extravaganza.Its sole concession to the 'star power' syndrome is the presence of Warren Oates ("Dillinger") as an armed subversive type (I didn't dare to use the dreaded 'T' word!).
The film is under the very capable guidance of the now-also-well-known Roger Donaldson, who was also responsible for another powerful home-grown effort, "Smash Palace". Impressionable youngsters like Peter Jackson may have seen this and decided their futures.
Like Jackson's LOTR trilogy, "Sleeping Dogs" is filmed on location in New Zealand. As such, the sets and scenery give a fair idea of life in provincial and metropolitan NZ in the mid-70's (but there's no stunning vistas of the majestic Southern Alps here, I'm afraid).
"Sleeping Dogs" is an adaptation of a story by New Zealand author C.K.Stead and pits an increasingly autocratic government of the near-future against a group of resistance fighters. Smith (Neill), very recently separated from a cheating wife, pretty much accidentally and quite reluctantly, gets involved with this group.
One scene in the movie was (and still is) something of a talking point here in NZ because it seemed, in hindsight, so chillingly prescient - life imitating art.
In the scene, a large group of protesters have clashed violently with unyielding, merciless, baton-wielding riot police; blood is flowing, injures are rife.
Some five years after the film had been released, in 1981, the then-internationally-banned Springbok rugby team from South Africa were allowed to tour here, despite clamorous local and global opposition.
New Zealand experienced the horrors and scarring of civil division. Wherever the Springboks played and also in the capital, Wellington, violence erupted. And it seemed to many of us at the time that the scenes that Donaldson had shot many years ago were now being replayed almost nightly on the news. Spooky.