Sleepless is the 2017 remake of Frédéric Jardin’s Nuit Blanche, released six years ago, that you never knew you wanted. This is, of course, predominantly because you didn’t, but that hasn’t not stopped Baran bo Odar from directing it anyway. Isn’t that nice of him. Whilst the first half is fair enough, if not actively good, it is in Sleepless’ second act that the plot swings from banal to bonkers, before finally bombing in boring.
Jamie Foxx leads this Americanised version, Rajesh M. Selva having been quicker off the mark in producing an Indian adaptation back in 2015, as Las Vegas copper Vincent Downs who, along with fellow supposed-corruptee Sean (T.I.), assault and rob a transit of cocaine belonging to Casino big-shot businessman: Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney). After a violent but fruitful raid, the pair use their positions in the Las Vegas Police Dept. to instigate a cover up: ‘we control the case, we control the evidence’. In doing so, however, they come up against the ire of Internal Affairs investigators Jennifer and Doug (Michelle Monaghan and David Harbour), the former of whom thus sets about a dogged campaign to stalk and expose their criminality.
Things take a further turn for the worse when Vincent’s son, Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson), is kidnapped by Rubino’s posse to become hostage in his demanding the return of that so expensive of cargos. The drugs, it transpires, are actually to be the property of Rob Novak (Scoot McNairy), the mobster son of an infamous head honcho, and it would be reasonable to suggest that he’s not a happy bunny. His catchphrase is quickly established to be ‘I want my f******g drugs back’.
It works to no one’s favour that getting in to Sleepless is, at first, no easy task, though task it is. The film opens in so visually murky a fashion, the aesthetic being that of Noel Clarke’s Hood trilogy, and with such haphazard camerawork and editing, that it is initially a state of confusion that pervades any semblance of story. As things slowly become clearer. it is less as a result of Odar finding his feet than it is of his audience demonstrating an ability to identify tick-box clichés. When push comes to shove (and, oh, does push come to shove), Sleepless is essentially a tum-ti-dumb thriller in which bad things happen and various excrements hit the fan. As per, the cops don’t play by the rules whilst the filmmakers themselves very much do.
In terms of performance quality, Foxx and Monaghan have charisma enough to lead the film and for a good forty five minutes seem just about able, even aside typically dull antagonists and some real script clunkers – ‘This city is crawling with dirty cops’. That there is no actor, living or dead, who could sell such a line with a straight face, credit where it is due for Monaghan’s attempt. McNairy is later left completely at a loss in attempting to deliver a similarly ludicrous pie metaphor (‘we’ve got out fingers in a whole lot of pies’) which drags on pitifully. Much like the film itself by the end in fact.
Things begin to spiral out of control for Sleepless pretty much bang-on the half way mark. Unable to handle the film’s plot-twist, Odar sends his characters down the route of endless, superhero-styled sequences of characters repeatedly hitting each other in different areas of the same building, beginning with a kitchen fight involving flour, mops and pans in a way that would surely make Tom and Jerry proud. Marcel Marceau too, actually. Unfortunately the hilarity of the ensuing absurdity can only sustained for a short burst. When realisation dawns that this is a film which genuinely doesn’t see the silliness of a line like: ‘When someone takes a dump n my department I know about it’, the joke runs dry and the remained is rendered increasingly tiresome the more it outstays its welcome. Although – do watch the extras because their direction, or lack thereof, remains a hoot throughout. My favourite moment is the recreation of Simon, Will, Jay and Neil’s awkward dance sequence in 2011’s The Inbetweeners Movie.
Whilst, at no point is Sleepless ever a great film, it does, none the less, feel a shame that an initial air of serviceable engagement is so thoroughly uprooted. It’s not the worst in this genre by any means but, let’s face it, when your competition is the Taken franchise…