We’ve all heard the expression that it’s usually best to “let sleeping dogs lie,” but in the case of Jeff Hannon, it’s just not possible. The people who keep calling him on his cell phone and interrupting his dreams won’t let him. Their voices have compelled him to leave his comfortable home in Cincinnati and embark on a journey to the town of Bueford, Texas, despite the fact that he has no idea what to look for once he gets there. But Jeff’s intentions are noble; his sole purpose is to try to help his callers and put an end to the nightmare he has inexplicably found himself in. But, as we’ve also all heard, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Sleeping Dogs Lie is a short film that’s been generating quite a bit of buzz and winning awards left and right. Written by Chumahan Bowen and directed by Stuart Lessner (both of whom are fresh-faced newcomers), Sleeping Dogs Lie stars such diverse individuals as Edward Asner, Peter Looney, Chelsea Field, and Maynard James Keenan. Jeff is played by first-time actor Brad Wilk, better known as the drummer of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. While I wouldn’t advise Wilk to give up his day job just yet, he does bring a calm, compassionate presence to the screen that is very well suited to his character. Jeff is obviously in over his head but has an overwhelming desire to aid the strangers who have, for whatever reason, contacted him; and Wilk’s portrayal conveys that empathy quite well.
Asner’s character, on the other hand, is anything but benevolent toward the stranger in his town. It’s obvious from the first time we see him that nothing happens in Bueford without Sheriff Delaney’s knowledge and permission. When Jeff walks into the Sheriff’s office with his crazy talk about a murder that happened some 25 years prior, Delaney makes no secret of the fact that he isn’t too happy about someone from “up North” coming to upset the status quo in Bueford. Nonetheless, he decides to listen to Jeff’s tale – so long as they can grab some lunch at his favorite restaurant at the same time. Asner inhabits the role of Sheriff Delaney as if it were written just for him. It’s great to see him back in action after so many years, and not once did I think of Lou Grant!
The most pleasant surprise in Sleeping Dogs Lie for me, a big Tool and APC fan, was Maynard’s portrayal of Lance, Delaney’s deputy. Virtually unrecognizable, Maynard manages with very little screen time to convey Lance’s weirdness and ineptitude while avoiding the stereotypical goofiness other actors might have employed for the character. He’s also the most entertaining part of the outtakes and featurette found on the DVD. According to screenwriter Bowen, Maynard stayed in character during the shoot. “With Maynard’s chops and a little bit of training, he might be able to be security — at a mall, maybe,” Bowen joked in an interview with MTV News.
The behind the scenes featurette lasts as long as the film and is chock full of interviews with cast and crew. It’s evident that everyone involved in Sleeping Dogs Lie – especially executive producers Jeffery Brooks and Ford Englerth – considered it a labor of love. They scored major points with me by hiring such excellent cinematography and sound guys – and including two great songs at the beginning and end of the film (which is what the extra ½ mug of blood is for). It isn’t often that you find a short film with both a great script and such high production values. But Sleeping Dogs Lie is exactly that type of film. I was completely satisfied, yet still wanted more. The back story of the people calling Jeff could easily be fleshed out to make Sleeping Dogs Lie into a feature film, and while I’m not sure I’d want to see that happen since it’s so perfect as it is, I definitely look forward to seeing what Bowen and Lessner bring to the genre in the future. As Asner says, Sleeping Dogs Lie is a “very nice small entity of strangeness,” and hopefully its creators will continue on the path they have started here and bring us more such wonderful strangeness in the years to come.
Sleeping Dogs Lie (2005)
(Redrock Entertainment Development)
Directed by Stuart Lessner
Starring Edward Asner, Brad Wilk, Maynard James Keenan
Behind the Scenes Featurette
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