Film Review: Sleepless

The action is relentless, and the results monotonous.
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This remake of the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night (Nuit blanche) is remarkably faithful to its source material. But despite its strenuous attempt at replicating the original film’s frenetic action, much has been lost in translation along the way. Never rising above the level of generic B-movie, Sleepless represents the sort of disposable fare typically dropped into theaters in January.

Jamie Foxx plays the central role of corrupt Las Vegas cop Vincent Downs, who gets more trouble than he bargained for when he and his partner (Tip “T.I.” Harris) rob a cocaine shipment. The crooked casino boss (Dermot Mulroney) to whom it belongs is desperate to get his drugs back, as he’s due to turn them over to the vicious son (Scoot McNairy) of the local mob boss. So he has his minions kidnap Vincent’s teenage son Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson), with Vincent receiving a serious stab wound in the process.

Even while desperately attempting to return the drugs in order to save his son, Vincent finds himself relentlessly pursued by indefatigable Internal Affairs investigator Bryant (Michelle Monaghan). When she manages to get hold of the drugs that Vincent has temporarily stashed in a casino restroom, it sets off a violent chain of events over the course of a single night.

Working from a script by Andrea Berloff (Oscar-nominated for Straight Outta Compton), Swiss director Baran bo Odar (Who Am IThe Silence) keeps the action moving at an almost comically relentless pace. There’s a particular emphasis on fight scenes, including an elaborately staged kitchen-set bout that naturally features a wide variety of cooking paraphernalia, and a highly physical, hotel room dustup between Foxx and Monaghan that at least reveals intense preparation on the part of the actors. But despite those and many other moments of violent mayhem, the film never truly proves exciting.

The tight time-frame and compressed plotting only emphasizes the story’s contrivances, which include several of the characters proving not who they initially seemed. It might have been easier to go with the flow if there was some winking humor acknowledging such absurdities as Foxx’s character going through strenuous athletic paces while practically bleeding to death, but nearly everything is played totally straight in a failed attempt at grittiness.  

Foxx tries very, very hard to be badass, but his formidable charisma is barely on display in his monotonous turn, and Monaghan overplays her character’s Inspector Javert-like tendencies to the point of near silliness. Some of the supporting players — including Mulroney and McNairy as the bad guys, and David Harbour as Bryant’s cop partner — fare better by comparison. But Gabrielle Union is totally wasted as Vincent’s wife, who spends most of the proceedings worriedly making phone calls before displaying some incongruous action moves toward the end.

Photographed in the familiar dark metallic color palette that has become a visual cliche in thrillers of this type, Sleepless belies its title by having a narcotizing effect.--The Hollywood Reporter

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