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Sleeping Dogs was a 1977 film, the first to be entirely produced and set in New Zealand, along with being the first feature film from director Roger Donaldson. It chronicles a man named Smith (Sam Neill) who inadvertently gets caught up with the unrest overtaking the country and finds he is unable to extricate himself from being involved.


The movie 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 sweeping emergency powers, declaring martial law, trial by military courts, the death penalty for offenses against the state, and instituting a 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.
  • It Got Worse: What starts as a general strike in response to an oil embargo that the government was unable to lift turns into full-blown civil war when a False-Flag Operation occurs.
  • La Résistance: The guerrillas who draw an unwilling Smith into their fight against the police state.
  • No 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.
  • Only Sane Man: Smith just wants to be left alone in peace. No such luck though.
  • State Sec: The paramilitary Special Police Force.
  • 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. Still to be fair, the Special Police Force are even worse.
  • Title Drop: The song that plays over the end credits, with, of course, the line "let sleeping dogs lie."
  • What an Idiot!: Jesperson shoots Smith when he turns his back on him defiantly and walks away at the end, then curses at him, even kicking his body, saying he needed to keep him alive. Uh, should have thought of that before you shot him...
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Smith recognizes Jesperson in the police station, and later Jesperson, having recognized him too, offers him mercy if he makes a scripted confession at the TV station. How they know each other is never explained.
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