Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Violence and Language throughout
Directed by: Baran bo Odar
Written by: Andrea Berloff
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Clifford Joseph Harris Jr., Michelle Monaghan, Dermot Mulroney, David Harbour, Gabrielle Union & Scoot McNairy
SLEEPLESS had every indication of sucking. It was a remake of an acclaimed French action flick SLEEPLESS NIGHT (which I haven’t seen), it had a foreboding January release date (a dumping ground for studios), and I’d heard nothing but negative things about it since its release. Still, something kept me interested in watching this flick and I’m glad that I did. Don’t get me wrong, SLEEPLESS isn’t necessarily special or outstanding. This is a simple, fun action flick with slick visuals and some smart storytelling; along with a healthy dose of silly clichés and dumb decisions.
Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx) is a corrupt Las Vegas policeman who indulges in robberies from time to time. His latest stick-up happened to be 25 kilos of cocaine that belongs to casino owner Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney). Things seem to be going fine for Downs until Rubino’s men kidnap his disgruntled teenage son (Markell Watson) and demand their illegal white powder back. A simple exchange of drugs for a hostage becomes far more complicated and dangerous, because two internal affairs officers (Michelle Monaghan and David Harbour) show up looking for Downs and a psycho gangster (Scoot McNairy) comes into play.
For a majority of its running time, SLEEPLESS takes place in Rubino’s large casino. Certain characters interact with each other on one floor, while other characters attempt to avoid detection or kick ass in a different area. There’s a constant threat of enemies coming from all sides and different subplots weave in and out of each other. The two cops are on his tail, his son is being held hostage, and there’s the psycho drug dealer’s contentious relationship with the casino owner. As you might imagine, a few twists make their way into the mix. Some of these developments are unexpectedly clever, while others are silly and a little too convenient.
SLEEPLESS’s biggest problem is its reliance on some really stupid character decisions to further its plot along. These aren’t egregiously annoying as the film tries to write their dumb mistakes off in “smart” ways. However, a few plot developments are somewhat unbelievable. It does help that the performances are solid across the board though. Jamie Foxx makes for an interesting protagonist, who initially tests the viewer’s empathy by being corrupt and kind of a jerk towards everyone around him. Michelle Monaghan is great as a do-gooder antagonist in this plot. Her decisions will likely make the viewer throw their hands up in frustration, but in any other movie, we’d probably be rooting for her. David Harbour brings his usual level of quality as Monaghan’s partner and is easily become one of my favorite modern character actors.
As the casino owner, Dermot Mulroney comes off as a bland baddie. He’s not the main antagonist though, because Scoot McNairy’s psycho gangster easily steals the show. McNairy is so good at playing scumbags and delivers one of his most unhinged characters to date. From his torture-happy introduction to his bullet-filled final scene, McNairy is downright scary. Meanwhile, Markell Watson is okay enough as the kidnapped kid and Gabrielle Union seems to be phoning it in as the concerned mother (who conveniently keeps a gun in her glove box, of course).
SLEEPLESS’s has a variety of action-filled moments and no two scenes seem alike. There’s are a few hand-to-hand confrontations that involve a glass table (which, of course, has somebody being thrown through it) and kitchen utensils (which, of course, results in a surprisingly anticlimactic knife fight). There are gun fights and a broken champagne bottle becomes a deadly weapon in one of the film’s best kills (wasted on a poor random henchman). Also, a showdown in a parking garage gets increasingly ridiculous, but remains entertaining the whole way through. Of course, the gangster would have a gas mask and smoke grenades in his car…because what psycho gangster wouldn’t have those readily on hand?
SLEEPLESS has more than its fair share of clichés and increasingly convenient plot developments that arise as the fast-paced running time chugs along. For all of its faults though, I had fun watching this movie. The acting is solid from damn near every cast member, with a few delivering outright terrific performances. The action is mostly well-executed (with minimal shaky cam) and the cinematography is visually pleasing. The premise of setting the film almost entirely within a casino is cool and the storytelling does a lot with this colorful environment. If you want a dumb little actioner and don’t mind noticeable silliness, then give SLEEPLESS a look.