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“Sleeping Dogs” took me about three viewings to get a handle on the material. New Zealand cinema is a weak spot in my coverage, so I figured why not talk about one of the major milestones in the field. Well, it doesn’t make a ton of sense? Taking place during the 1970s labor strikes in New Zealand makes you think something is about to go down. Then, it turns into a domestic drama about the wife cheating. Before that gets solved, Sam Neill has moved to an abandoned island.

What’s going on? Well, it’s a film about the Pacific was changing during the 1970s. Warren Oates shows up as an American commander trying to take control of the rioting in the area, but then it becomes a terrorist issue. All the while, the film keeps brewing into this bizarre parable about international relations. Naturally for a 70s movie, it has a downer ending.



  • Commentary by writer-director Roger Donaldson, actor Sam Neill and actor-writer Ian Mune
  • The Making of Sleeping Dogs (2004), a 65-minute retrospective documentary on the film’s production featuring interviews with Donaldson, Neill, Mune, Geoff Murphy
  • The Making of Sleeping Dogs (1977), a contemporary behind-the-scenes documentary featuring interviews with Donaldson and Neill
  • Theatrical trailer



  • 1.85:1 1080p transfer
  • DTS-HD 5.1 master audio track


  • 92%
    Video - 92%
  • 93%
    Audio - 93%
  • 93%
    Special Features - 93%
  • 90%
    Film Score - 90%

The Plot Thus Far

Adapted from C.K. Stead’s novel Smith’s Dream, Sleeping Dogs almost single-handedly kickstarted the New Zealand New Wave, demonstrating that homegrown feature films could resonate with both local and international audiences, and launching the big-screen careers of director Roger Donaldson (No Way Out, Species) and Sam Neill (Jurassic Park, Possession).

Neill – in his first lead role in a feature – plays Smith, a man escaping the break-up of his marriage by finding isolation on an island off the Coromandel Peninsula. As he settles into his new life, the country is experiencing its own turmoil: an oil embargo has led to martial law and civil war, into which Smith reluctantly finds himself increasingly involved.

Co-starring Warren Oates (Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia) as the commander of a US army unit drawn into the conflict, Sleeping Dogs is simultaneously a political thriller, a personal drama and a true landmark in New Zealand cinema.


Troy Anderson is the Owner/Editor-in-Chief of AndersonVision. He uses a crack team of unknown heroes to bring you the latest and greatest in Entertainment News.

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