A potentially good ‘B’ movie undone.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 came up with the oft used quote that “there is nothing new under the sun”. “Sleepless” proves that in spades.

  • Bent copper drama?  Check.
  • Dodgy casino owner? Check.
  • Nasty “Black Rain” style hoodlum?  Check.
  • Kidnapped teen (“I WILL find you”)?   Check.
  • Misunderstood family man?  Check.

All of these standard tropes are lobbed into the movie blender and pulsed well.

That look you get when you get another PPI sales call.
Holding it all together are solid performances from Jamie Foxx (“Django Unchained”) as Vincent Downs, the cop with a dodgy background, and Michelle Monaghan (“Source Code”, “Patriot’s Day”) as the internal affairs cop doggedly on his trail.

Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) with her partner Dennison (David Harbour) trying to root out the dirty cops.
In terms of the storyline it’s best to go into the film (as I did) with limited knowledge of the plot (on which more below). As the film opens, and playing out a strong anti-hero role, Downs with his equally dodgy partner are involved in a shootout at a drug deal in the streets of Las Vegas. This allows them to get their hands on a significant quantity of heroine. Naturally they pocket this, but unbeknownst to them the deal was between casino boss Rubino (Dermot Mulrooney, “The Grey”) and the vicious mafia son of the local Novak family, Rob (Scoot McNairy, “Argo”). For Downs the pressure is on when his teenage son Thomas ( Octavius J. Johnson) is kidnapped as a trade for the drugs.

The kitchen themed gay Vegas nightclub was inspiring all the best dance moves.

The film delivers some good fight scenes and action, but nothing we haven’t seen before in countless other movies like Bourne. What drags the film down though is the scripting and direction. There are such a range of implausibilities on show here that it makes you wonder why anyone involved in the film didn’t just stop and say “WAIT A MINUTE HERE GUYS” and demand a rewrite.

For example, Foxx suffers a severe knife wound early in the film, but repeatedly bounces from ‘full action hero fighting machine’ mode to ‘staggering and holding his side’ mode without pause. The wound adds nothing but implausibility to the action, so why include it at all??

And a scene in an underground car park involving copious quantities of tear gas brought tears of embarrassment to my eyes: an affliction that didn’t seem to affect any of the protagonists in the film!  

Yes, it’s tear gas… but not the nasty stingy sort.

This is a great shame, and writer Andrea Berloff (“Straight Outta Compton”) and Swiss-born director Baran bo Odar should have more respect for their audience’s intelligence (that’s the third movie in recent weeks I’ve made that comment on… it must be the time of year!).

It’s also extremely irritating that one of the key twists in the movie (although you may guess it) is so blatantly spoiled:  both by an audio line in the trailer (commented on below) and – more appallingly – by one of the two straplines on the posters (I haven’t used that one to head my post). Thankfully I never noticed this before I saw the film.

Fox and Monaghan are too good for the material but have screen chemistry that keeps the film watchable. I also thought Scoot McNairy was great as the cold-eyed crazy hoodlum and it’s also interesting to see Dermot Mulrooney, so memorable as the male lead in 1997’s “My Best Friend’s Wedding”, back in a mainstream role.

My Best Friend’s bad guy. Dermot Mulrooney living the high life in the shadows.
By the way, I have no idea why the film is called “Sleepless”, other than it being based on a 2011 French film called “Nuit Blanche” which was perhaps written in a way where it made more sense.  Vincent is no Jack Bauer and he gets more than a small opportunity to catnap during the running time!

In summary, the movie is perfectly watchable for its action moments. In fact, as I *think* my wife, who is a great fan of “Die Hard, “Taken”, et al would like it I’ve added a half-Fad to my initial rating. And it’s done with some style such that it has the *potential* to be a good film – – which is frustrating.  But in my view it’s not worth the ticket price at the cinema:  wait instead for it to arrive on Amazon/Netflix.

The end of the film suggests a set-up for a sequel. I doubt this is a sequel that will ever get made.

Fad rating: FFf.

(Spoiler alert:  This is a really slickly put together trailer with great use of music, but there is a dreadful spoiler on the audio between 1:40 and 1:45 so mute it then!)