Review: Sleepless Night (Fantastic Fest)
PLOT: A cop and a partner-in-crime lift a bag full of cocaine from a bunch of group of thugs with the idea of selling it on the side for some extra cash. But when the cop is recognized on the scene, a local gangster kidnaps his son and holds him ransom until his drugs are returned. The cop, internal affairs officers, a competing gang, bouncers and other unsavory characters are all on a crash-course inside a crowded French nightclub.
REVIEW: When I think of action films, I don't often think of the French, but SLEEPLESS NIGHT shows Hollywood how it's done with a rough and tumble aesthetic and a powerful performance by star Tomer Sisley.
Vincent (Sisley) is a cop who got mixed up stealing cocaine from thugs and selling it on the black market for some extra cash. While he's a good cop, he's not a very good thief and gets recognized during a heist and one of the goons escapes and informs Marciano, a local gangster. None too happy that his drugs have been lifted by a crooked cop, he steals something of his own - Vincent's son.
One his son has been abducted, the majority of the film takes place as Le Tarmac, a restaurant/nightclub run by Marciano. We spend almost the entirety of the rest of the film inside the building and it winds up becoming as important as any of the characters. Director Frederic Jardin wisely spends time setting up the interior architecture of the building - a complex labyrinth of dancefloors, billiard rooms, dining halls and kitchens - so that when the shit hits the fan (and it does in spectacular fashion) we know where we're going and never get lost in the action. This allows the film to move along at almost a breakneck pace as the tension mounts and Vincent's panic and desperation grows.
If you've ever spent anytime at a crowded club, you'll appreciate how Jardin frames the scenery. Le Tarmac is packed with a loud, drunk crowd and Vincent often struggles to hurry against their grain. There's one particularly entertaining chase scene where Vincent actually uses the crowd to his advantage while the speakers blast "Another One Bites the Dust."
What's most satisfying about SLEEPLESS NIGHT is that the many action scenes never devolve into martial arts style fights that wouldn't fit these characters. These aren't fights as much as they are knock-down, drag-out brawls as characters punch and wrestle and beat each other using whatever is at their disposal. One particular fight in a kitchen features the best use of a colander as a weapon I've ever seen in a film.
In addition to a solid action film, SLEEPLESS NIGHT actually separates itself from something like TAKEN with a tight script that never borders on absurd. We know our players and their motivations once the game of cat-and-mouse begins and Jardin knows part of the fun of watching these characters battle each other to reach their conflicting goals.
While SLEEPLESS NIGHT deserves to be a success on its own right, the film was recently picked up by Warner Bros. for a Hollywood remake, which is disappointing because what SLEEPLESS NIGHT gets so very right is what Hollywood so often gets wrong. The film is a refreshing change of pace and one that hopefully teaches Americans a thing or two.