Sleeping Dogs review – not quite total recall for Russell Crowe in over-the-top pulp-noir

<span>Enjoyably silly … Russell Crowe in Sleeping Dogs.</span><span>Photograph: Prime</span>
Enjoyably silly … Russell Crowe in Sleeping Dogs.Photograph: Prime

Entirely preposterous as it is, there’s a fair bit of entertainment to be had in what might be called an erotic pulp-noir from screenwriter turned director Adam Cooper, adapted from the 2017 crime bestseller The Book of Mirrors by Eugene Chirovici. I can imagine Brian De Palma being interested in it – and he might have wanted to twist the eroticism dial clockwise a click or two more.

Russell Crowe plays Roy Freeman, a depressed ex-cop whose wife left him long ago, battling to stay on the wagon, living in squalor and undergoing an experimental treatment to reverse his early onset dementia; he has labels on everything in his apartment to remind him what they’re for – but still occasionally opens the microwave to find the TV remote, completely fried. One day he is visited by a prison charity worker, begging him to visit a former junkie and burglar now on death row for the murder, 10 years previously, of charismatic psychology professor Joseph Wieder (Márton Csókás) – a case which Roy once worked with his partner Jimmy, a tough detective played by Crowe’s fellow Gladiator cast member Tommy Flanagan.

Roy can just about retrieve uneasy memories of Jimmy beating a confession out of this individual. Prof Wieder was having an affair with his brilliant, beautiful grad student Laura, played by Karen Gillan with hilariously haughty glacial mannerisms; she was an enthusiast for dangerous, transgressive sex as well as having a relationship with highly strung literature student Richard (Harry Greenwood), whose unpublished typescript memoir of the affair Roy now discovers and suspects that it may offer vital clues. And all the time, thanks to the medical treatment and the stimulus of the case, Roy finds that his own memory is coming back and unpleasant details are becoming un-suppressed.

This is certainly not a crime thriller in the dourly realistic “cold case” vein; it is outrageously over-the-top at all times, with crazy and almost dreamlike convolutions of plot, and yet its silliness is enjoyably dramatised.

• Sleeping Dogs is on Prime Video from 21 June.