Adapted from C.K. Stead’s novel, Smith’s DreamSleeping Dogsplayed a role in kick-starting the New Zealand New Wave. It was a picture that showed that homegrown feature films had the power to connect with both local and international audiences. Now just a little over four decades later, Arrow Video is proud to release the Blu Ray of the film, loaded with extra features. Those features include behind-the-scenes commentary, along with a 65-minute documentary on the film’s production. 

The story doesn’t waste a beat right from the very beginning. We are presented with a video broadcast that sets up exposition for the political discourse taking place in the film. Smith is a man escaping a breakup from his wife, taking off to an isolated island. Upon arriving there, he finds himself surrounded by civil war and martial law. The film establishes a real sense of anxiety through the fascist government and police force. And while there’s plenty of adrenaline to be had in this thriller, Sleeping Dogsalso offers some insightful commentary on political corruption.


The updated high-definition quality brings an extra shine to the lighting, and an added fluidity to each movement. In particular, the visuals capture the intensity of the action packed moments. Scenes that show civilians being assaulted by police officers exude with tension, for we are able to make out the fear in the civilians’ faces. To accompany the visuals, Sleeping Dogsalso incorporates a solid score. As the story progresses with Smith’s involvement in the political conflict, the score works to exude the right aura for each situation.

The plot moves at a great pace, allowing us to witness Smith getting use to his new home, just to have the rug pulled out from under him and escalate things. The story does a good job transitioning from intense moments with violence, to laidback periods in Smith’s life. As the viewer, we are able to take a breather when Smith is able to, and get as tense as he gets when there’s danger. In regards to acting, there isn’t anything spectacular at play; characters act more in a means to move the plot forward. There is some intriguing political depth in some characters, but for the most part, the film focuses on the overall conflict.


Sleeping Dogsmakes for an intriguing film, and an important part of New Zealand history. The picture is a solid political thriller that offers a great balance of drama and action, and makes for a thrilling experience.

Have you seen Sleeping Dogs? What other films from New Zealand do you enjoy?