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Sleepless Night (2012)
Movie Reviews

Sleepless Night (2012)

Not a bad film but leaves the unshakable feeling that more needed to be said before the credits started rolling; less action and more character would have been a good place to start.

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Sleepless Night opens with a drug heist gone wrong, which should already give you an idea of the kind of movie it is. Two masked robbers aggressively drive up to a car in the middle of the street, in which are two drug carriers with a duffle bag containing around ten kilos of cocaine. The masked robbers pull guns on the carriers and order them to retrieve the bag. One of the carriers is shot dead, but not before he stabs the robber in his side and taking off his mask, exposing him to public view. The other one escapes. It’s at this point we learn that the robbers are actually cops. The one that was stabbed is named Vincent (Tomer Sisley). He also happens to be the one that orchestrated the heist. The one that let the other carrier escape is named Manuel (Laurent Stocker). They know they have to go to the scene and at least attempt to cover their tracks.

As this is being established, we learn that Vincent has a teenage son named Thomas (Samy Seghir). The two are not on the best terms; Vincent, always working, is never around. He drops Thomas off at school, the two having had an argument. Later in the day Vincent’s ex-wife, Julia (Catalina Denis), calls in a panic, as Thomas hasn’t been answering his cell phone. Initially, Vincent believes that there’s nothing to worry about. But then he gets a call from Thomas’ cell phone; on the other end is Vincent’s underworld connection, a mob boss named Jose Marciano (Serge Riaboukine). Thomas has been kidnapped. Jose is very upset with Vincent. Not only was he recognized in the heist by a bystander, he also has the bag of cocaine. Thomas’ life depends on Vincent delivering the bag to Jose’s nightclub by the end of the night.

Vincent has every intention of delivering, much to the chagrin of Manuel, who has debts that need to be erased. Vincent infiltrates Jose’s nightclub with the bag and promptly hides it above a ceiling tile in a men’s room stall. Unbeknownst to him, he has been followed by another cop named Vignali (Lizzie Brochere), who traces his steps, finds the bag, and moves it into a spot just above a ladies’ room stall. Her superior is a cop named Lacombe (Julien Boisselier), who has an understanding with the desperate Manuel. Lacombe’s job is to sniff out corrupt cops, which would be fine except that he’s a zealot and an absolute jerk. Vincent does not yet know he’s involved, but it well aware of who Lacombe is, and he can sense early on that he and Manuel are already in trouble.

It’s at this point that the film becomes a monotonous series of tense exchanges and action sequences. Vincent finally meets with Jose, who then allows Thomas to catch a glimpse of his father. Vincent returns to the men’s room, discovers that the bag of cocaine is missing, and in a panic storms into the club’s kitchen and forces two cooks to fill dozens of Ziploc bags with flour. Jose meets with the Turkish carriers the cocaine is supposed to be delivered to, and yet another series of tense exchanges take place. Vincent rescues his son, only for him to be promptly recaptured. There are many scenes in which Vincent frantically darts through various sections of the club, from the main room to the adjoining restaurant to the upstairs rooms to the kitchen. The latter is the setting for a physical altercation between Vincent and Lacombe, one that was allowed to go on much longer than it should have.

I think part of the problem here is that the plot comes off as a means to an end, namely an excuse to overload the final act with action sequences. There’s nothing innately wrong with action, although I am bothered when it amounts to little more than displays of kinetic energy. It becomes less about the situation and more about the violence, the choreography, the unsteady camerawork, the standoffs, and the gunshots. It becomes a technical exercise when it should have remained a story. When the film does stop to take a breath, we notice that Vincent is continuing to nurse his stab wound. This means, obviously, that it’s not just a matter of saving Thomas; it’s a matter of saving him before time runs out.

The climax of the film, which I will not spoil for you, is more emotional than it is narrative. There is something to be said for taking that approach, but only when it’s done well. Here, we’re left with the unshakable feeling that more needed to be said before the final credits started rolling. The loose ends were left untied. Here is a film in which you want full resolution, if for no reason other than it seems appropriate given the material. Sleepless Night gets off to an adequate start and is in general not a bad film, but I do feel that it could have tried for something a little less mechanical. It’s at heart the story of a father trying to rescue his son, so I see no reason why the filmmakers had to rely so heavily on unnecessary displays of frenetic activity. Less action and more character would have been a good place to start.

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05/11/2012

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NR

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Tribeca Films

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About the Author: Chris Pandolfi