Follow TV Tropes


Film / Sleeping Dogs

Go To

Sleeping Dogs is a 1977 action thriller film directed by Roger Donaldson, starring Sam Neill, Ian Mune, Nevan Rowe, and Warren Oates. It chronicles a man named Smith (Neill), living on New Zealand's Coromandel Peninsula, who inadvertently gets caught up in the unrest overtaking the country and finds he is unable to extricate himself from being involved.

Donaldson's directorial debut, the film is also notable as the first to be entirely produced and set in New Zealand.

If you were looking for the Hong Kong action game of the same name, it can be found here.


This film contains the following tropes:

  • Day of the Jackboot: After a False Flag Operation in which soldiers are killed, the Prime Minister has a referendum held to grant himself vast emergency powers, declaring martial law, trial by military courts, the death sentence for offenses against the state, and instituting the paramilitary Special Police Force.
  • Downer Ending: Smith is shot dead by Jesperson after defying him. Bullen died just before, and the future of the war in New Zealand is left unknown.
  • False Flag Operation: Jesperson pays some thugs to shoot soldiers clashing with pro-union protesters, giving the Prime Minister the excuse he needs to institute a police state.
  • Film of the Book: Based on the book Smith's Dream by C. K. Stead.
  • From Bad to Worse: What starts as a general strike in protest over an oil embargo that the government was unable to lift turns into full-blown civil war after a False Flag Operation occurs.
  • Advertisement:
  • No Full Name Given: Smith, Bullen and Jesperson. They are only ever called by their last names, or "Smithy" for Smith. Though Smith's first name is viewable on the police file in a Freeze-Frame Bonus, when you pause it at that spot-it's Martin.
  • La Résistance: The guerrillas who draw an unwilling Smith into their fight against the police state.
  • Only Sane Man: Smith just wants to be left alone in peace. No such luck though.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: The discussion between the two Māori men Smith rents the island from is untranslated.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Villified: Some of La Résistance show themselves to be quite ruthless two of them frame Smith, an innocent man, for the bombing of a police station. However, the Special Police Force are even worse.
  • State Sec: The paramilitary Special Police Force.
  • Title Drop: The song that plays over the end credits, with, of course, the line "Let sleeping dogs lie."
  • Translation: "Yes": Smith asks two Māori men, only one of which speaks English, if he may rent an island. The two speak untranslated for a good 40 seconds before the younger one says: "The old man said it's okay."
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Smith escapes captivity by using the distraction of jamming his fingers down his throat and throwing up on the person guarding him when he's transported to jump out of the moving car.
  • What You Are in the Dark: After Bullen has been wounded, he asks Smith why he doesn't just leave him to die, noting that "Gloria'llnote  never know." Smith replies: "Yeah, but I would."