Sleepless Review

A couple of cool fight sequences don’t do much to help this lame remake live up to the original Sleepless.

A good police thriller could certainly offer some welcome entertainment and distraction during this dreary month. So it’s a shame that Sleeplessa remake of Sleepless Night, a solid 2011 French film that few Americans had a chance to see—just never stands up to the premise it borrowed.

This fairly simple story about police corruption has been transplanted to Las Vegas where Jamie Foxx plays undercover cop Vincent Downes. As the film opens, we watch him and his partner staging a drug heist, getting away with 25 kilos of cocaine. That puts them at odds with the owners of said drugs, a local drug dealer (Scott McNairy) and a wealthy hotel proprietor named Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney), the latter of whom kidnaps Downes’ teen son Thomas (Octavius Johnson) to get the stolen drugs back.

Wisely, Downes immediately complies, bringing the stolen drugs to Rubino’s casino, but internal affairs officer Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) is already onto Downes and tails him there. Once she finds his hidden drugs, instead of turning them over, she decides to continue to follow Downes, hoping to get her hands on bigger fish.

This plot basically leads to a movie about who has the drugs and Vincent’s son at any given time, while the various players and some hired goons chase after each other around Rubino’s “Luxus” (sic) hotel, every once in a while colliding into a fistfight.

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Despite the decent cast, Foxx seems out of his league trying to give this character much weight, or allow us any reason to care about him. It certainly doesn’t help that Downes is immediately set up as a corrupt cop willing to do anything to protect himself. In other words, he doesn’t ever make a move that will allow you to root for him. And when his son is finally kidnapped, you may even think he brought it upon himself.

Johnson isn’t much better as his son—acting petrified one second and brave the next—while Mulroney and McNairy brush off their worst acting school bad guy impressions, never making their characters rise above the usual stereotypes.

The best part of the movie is Michelle Monaghan as a police officer, because she actually makes an attempt to break away from stereotypes while her character fights sexism as much as she fights corruption in the police force. And yet, some of the decisions made by her character just don’t make much sense; a wiser police officer would immediately call in reinforcements, for example. By comparison, the equally great Gabrielle Union has the unenviable task of playing Downes’ wife, a role that mostly involves her calling her husband to find out where their son is and only getting more involved in the story towards the very end.

Swiss director Baran bo Odar—whose German techno-thriller hit, Who Am I, helped bring him to these shores—follows other European filmmakers into the Hollywood ritual of lackluster projects that may have seemed better on paper to someone unaware of how weak the writing is.

He does offer a couple good fight sequences, including one sampled directly from the original movie where Downes takes on a large goon in the hotel’s busy kitchen. Monaghan even gets into the rough and tumble with Foxx, proving her character to be tougher than she is smart.

When it comes down to it, the actions by the police officers in this movie are often more erratic and implausible than the murderous drug dealer who doesn’t seem to care whom he hurts. The fact a SWAT team isn’t called to the hotel as soon as shots are fired at the hotel’s nightclub makes the whole thing seem even less believable in this day and age of heightened security.

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From the beginning, Sleepless tries to show off its Las Vegas setting with sweeping shots of the city where most of the famous casino names are masked; they’re replaced by fictitious hotel monikers like the aforementioned “Luxus.” Once it gets to said hotel, it stays inside, making it obvious that this story could literally have been placed in any big city. It’s ultimately a setting as non-distinct as the film it inhabits.

Sleepless isn’t bad for making the Vegas PD seem corrupt, as much as it is bad for making them look incompetent and clueless. Opening against a love letter to law enforcement like Peter Berg’s Patriots Day (also starring Monaghan!) just causes this to seem even more unconscionable an effort, but thankfully, it’s also easily forgotten.*

*(The filmmakers even have the gall to end the film on a cliffhanger, as if anyone might want to see a sequel once this is over!)

Sleepless is now playing across the country.


2 out of 5