Synopsis: Vincent (Tomer Sisley) seems to be a model citizen: respected cop, doting husband and father. But beneath the surface, Vincent is entangled with mobsters and drug dealers. And he has just been caught stealing a huge amount of cocaine from a drug lord. In a race against time, Vincent must return the stash in order to save his son’s life, his family and his career.
Frenetic French thriller goes for broke.
[a] loopy mash-up of just about every B-movie character type and action set-up
MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The old comedian’s adage ‘If they buy the set-up, they buy the gag’ is particularly pertinent to the grandly implausible premise of Sleepless Night, Frederic Jardin’s frantic action-thriller.
This loopy mash-up of just about every B-movie character type and action set-up should not work as well as it does. There are far too many moments that are either glaringly unbelievable or downright physically impossible. But the action is so adrenalised, the camerawork so vibrant and the characters so compelling that any suspicion we’re being played for fools evaporates by the finale.
The opening minutes set the frenetic tone: A crooked cop, Vincent (Tomer Sisley), and his snivelling offsider, Manuel (Laurent Stocker), jack the wrong cocaine stash in a daring daylight raid. The coke belongs to Marciano (Serge Riaboukine), a Parisian gangster who identifies Vincent and ups his bargaining power by acquiring some collateral of his own: Vincent’s son, Thomas (Samy Seghir).
Is their any more old-fashioned set-up than ‘Gimme what’s mine or the kid gets it’? Thankfully, Jardin and his co-writers Nicolas Saada and Olivier Douyere have a few more tropes to reinvent. The kid is held in Marciano’s vast nightclub Le Tarmac; a particularly fitting name as the multi-storied nightclub/restaurant/pool hall venue seems as big as an airport. Vincent agrees to swap the drugs for Thomas but a determined young IA detective, Vignali (Lizzie Brochere), derails the plan. Her crooked superior, Lacombe (Julien Boisellier), wants in on the action, quite literally, and finds himself in hand-to-hand combat with Vincent. All the while, the drugs’ rightful owner, Feydek (the charismatic Joey Starr, seen recently in Polisse), is growing impatient…
All but a handful of opening scenes and a (slightly unnecessary) coda take place on or within the kitchens, air ducts, toilets, stairwells, dance floors and offices at the nightclub, as Vincent darts from location to location. The constant flow of action, energy and threat of an armed henchman being around every corner unavoidably recalls John McTiernan’s Die Hard, as does the lead’s ever-worsening wound and the clever use of bit players to provide mood-lightening moments (here, it’s Indian kitchen hands, funny bouncers and a sexy clubber who falls for Vincent at just the wrong time).
Sleepless Night is particularly indebted to the cinematography of Tom Stern, the DP who shot The Hunger Games and all of Clint Eastwood’s output since Blood Work. Every location has a rich, individualistic palette, ensuring every doorway Vincent crashes through takes us to a distinctive, fresh location. In unison with editors Marco Cave and Christophe Pinel, Stern captures the energetic pulse of the packed dance floor in several showstopping sequences, most memorably when Vincent runs against the tide of partygoers as they sway to Queen’s ‘Another One Bites The Dust’.
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