New Video // 2011 // 102 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // September 30th, 2012
Do you know what free will is?
I've always had a soft spot for French action films, from older entries like Henri-George Clouzot's great The Wages of Fear to the very fun, but very mixed work of Luc Besson. There is a certain frenetic quality to it all that appeals greatly to me. Writer/director Frédéric Jardin (Cravate Club) continues the tradition with Sleepless Night, a slick and stylish thriller about the lengths a man will go to save his family.
Vincent (Tomer Sisley, The Burma Conspiracy) is a corrupt cop who, with his partner, is identified in the theft of a massive pile of cocaine and the murder of a gangster. José Marciano (Serge Riaboukine, 9mm), the man the coke was intended for, can't sit and let his shipment disappear, so kidnaps Vincent's son, Thomas (Samy Seghir, Big City), and takes him to his nightclub as ransom. Vincent's job is now two-fold: first, he must locate the drugs that have disappeared and, second, must rescue his son before Marciano finishes the job.
Sleepless Night may have a similar plot to Taken, but it has its own charms that separate it from Pierre Morel's popular production. It's wall to wall action from the very first scene, with barely a whimper of rest. When it does stop for a second, it's only to briefly establish a little bit of character, but only enough to get us a handle on who the characters are, but not enough to bog down the action.
There are six essential characters and one essential location, allowing the action move quickly without a lot of transition. There is Vincent and his son, who are at the center of the story; Marciano and his boss, who are the ostensible villains; and two Internal Affairs officers, on the trail of both the corrupt Vincent and the drug dealers. Nearly the entire film takes place within the various rooms of the nightclub, which makes the picture seem larger than it really is, allowing some variance in look and geography without having to actually go anywhere. Keeping things small helps to build and maintain the tension, which is there in droves and doesn't let up until the surprisingly quiet and heartfelt finish.
Jardin directs Sleepless Night with plenty of style, both in the way he moves the camera through the rooms, making use of the hordes of dancers and booming music to mask the characters, and the way he directs the action sequences. These take the regular cop movie form of shootouts and chases to hit songs, as well as set pieces that use the environment in a way more reminiscent of a Jackie Chan film than your standard cop fare. The variance in the action makes a big difference and keeps viewers on their toes throughout. The end of the film is never really in question and there might be some quibbling about the realism of being able to effectively conduct a shootout within a crowded club, but it moves so quickly with so much punching and shooting that it doesn't really matter; the violence is all that really counts.
Sleepless Nights comes from New Video and Tribeca Film on a DVD that gets the job done, but is nothing spectacular. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is a little murky at times, but the flesh tones look good and black levels are deep. The 5.1 surround sound, though, is definitely not where I want it to be. Given that most of the movie takes place in a crowded nightclub, one would hope for an immersive mix with a lot of action in the rear channels, but there isn't much at all. The dialog and music are well-differentiated and everything is perfectly clear; it just doesn't carry the excitement that the movie deserves. The only extra is a short series of interviews with a few of the cast members, and it's not very substantial.
A stylish, suspenseful, action-packed thriller, Sleepless Night should satisfy anyone who appreciates a good corrupt cop film. The performances are quite good and Jardin shows a lot of efficiency and talent in his film. The action moves at a good clip and the ending is plenty satisfying. I could wish for a little stronger of a DVD for the film, but the quality of Sleepless Night stands on its own.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Video
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated