Eight months ago, something happened that caused former German Police Officer Mike Atlas(Max Riemelt) to not just leave his job, but walk out on his wife and daughter. Now, living on the street, Mike is desperate to decipher what went wrong in his life so he can get himself back on track. The only problem is that there are some glaring holes in his memory, and there are people out there who do not want him to learn the truth in Sleeping Dog, directed by Stephan Lacant and Francis Meletzky, with writing by Christoph Darnstädt, Oded Davidoff, and Noah Stollman.
Sleeping Dog takes viewers on a six-episode journey that does a great job of misleading the viewer into thinking they know what is really going on in Atlas’s life. I was sure I knew who the big bad was, as well as why they were orchestrating this series of crimes, only to see it revealed that I was totally wrong. But while a clever plot twist is always a fun surprise, what truly makes the ending revelations to this story hit so well is that everything that mislead you into thinking things were different has excellent reasons for being there. None of the elements that confused me felt like they existed purely to obfuscate Sleeping Dog‘s truths. It’s easy for a production to fool an audience, given that they have complete control over what the viewer sees, but it takes far more care and skill to do it without a bunch of nonsensical plot points littering its wake.
Occupying this intriguing tale is a cast of characters who delivers their complicated roles in the story quite well. The energy of the cast as a whole is quite reserved. There is a quiet to the show that draws you in and makes the moments of confrontation feel all the louder and more impactful when they come. The fact that virtually all of the cast deliver characters that are comprised in one way or another helps the show retain the feeling that anyone could be somehow involved in the plot.
I particularly appreciate the performance of Carlo Ljubek as Atlas’s former partner Luka Zaric. This performance is one of the key elements that manages to keep the viewer in the dark about a lot of the show’s secrets. Whether or not he is looking to actually help Atlas or is the one out to get him is balanced perfectly throughout the film, and it is in no small part thanks to Ljubek’s excellent job delivering the character’s more nuanced moments that the character works so well.
The other character that stands out is Atlas’s daughter Tinka. As the only purely sympathetic character in the series, Tinka gives the show an uncompromised heart for the viewer to feel for. While everything else feels uncertain throughout the narrative, Tinka, her quality of character, and her unwavering concern and belief in her father give the show a much-needed solidity to its story, so the viewer never feels completely adrift in the world.
While the larger elements of Sleeping Dog are handled with skill, there are a few spots that left me scratching my head. There is a side plot that goes absolutely nowhere, killing time in the show’s fairly short length that focuses on a character that had no real purpose in the show at all. Along with that, some of the series investigation sequences go on for a little longer than they need to. This creates some drawn-out downtime that keeps the series from flowing as well as it otherwise would’ve.
The visual presentation does a good job of committing to the level of tension the story projects. This isn’t a world-ending doomsday scenario unfolding in the plot, and the visuals, music, and lighting do a great job of not trying to oversell the threat throughout the show. When there is danger, you know it, but it is always left at a level that feels more intimate and personal, rather than earth-shaking and bombastic as I’ve seen other productions try to do to the detriment of their final results.
Ultimately, Sleeping Dog delivers a well-balanced mystery that manages to deliver on its twist-filled narrative and tense atmosphere. While it could’ve utilized some of its time better, it manages to bring more than enough to its story that anyone looking for a good mystery will be able to enjoy it.
Sleeping Dog is streaming now on Netflix.