UK Release Date: 11th September 2017
Runtime: 95 minutes
Director: Baran bo Odar
Writer: Andrea Berloff
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Scoot McNairy, Dermot Mulroney, Octavius J Johnson, Gabrielle Union, David Harbour, TI
Synopsis: A cop becomes embroiled in a big money drug deal involving a number of major underworld figures and is forced to challenge his loyalties when his son is kidnapped and his fellow cops descend on a casino.
The idea of a corrupt cop thriller set in and around a casino isn’t exactly original. In fact, it’s a notion bathed in all of the clichés of the action movie, particularly once you throw in a familial kidnapping and the presence of a number of high-ranking crime lords. Sleepless didn’t exactly make the world move at the multiplex when it arrived earlier this year – and my colleague, Luke, wasn’t impressed by it at all – but I think it’s an enjoyable action movie that benefits from the charismatic central presence of Jamie Foxx, who is compelling as a head-smashing leading man.
Las Vegas cops Vincent Downs (Foxx) and Sean Cass (TI) have their fingers in a lot of pies, stealing a shipment of cocaine from casino boss Rubino (Dermot Mulroney) and then taking charge of the investigation themselves. It all goes wrong for Downs, though, when Rubino’s men kidnap his son (Octavius J Johnson) and demand Downs bring the drugs to the casino ahead of a planned deal with ruthless mob figure Rob Novak (Scoot McNairy). As Downs makes his way to the casino, he is pursued by suspicious internal affairs officers Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) and Dennison (David Harbour).
Sleepless is at its best when it truly makes the most of its single location. The film wastes no time positioning itself firmly within the confines of its casino setting after a brief car chase through neon-lit streets and some rather perfunctory setup. It uses every inch of the building, from high-up boardrooms to hotel suites and kitchens in order to keep the frenetic action moving as we follow Downs through the building. The plot veers a little too close to farce with its constantly moving bags of drugs and is never quite sure how to deal with those lashings of comedy, but comes alive when it becomes a stripped back action tale.
Foxx hits very hard indeed as Downs, even though the corrupt cop’s true loyalties are never really in doubt from the audience point of view. Every fight scene feels different and is staged in unique fashion by Swiss director Baran bo Odar, who works hard to ensure that Sleepless avoids falling into the trap of endless, near-identical punch-ups. Improvised weaponry grabbed at random proves to be as effective as punches and kicks, with Foxx bearing the brunt of the constant punishment and subsequently spending much of the film caked in blood, dust and, bizarrely, flour.
The supporting ensemble here varies wildly in terms of performance quality, but Michelle Monaghan is the clear standout. She is wonderful as the determined internal affairs officer trying to unravel the conspiracy of corruption within the Las Vegas police force. There are hints of a troubling event in her immediate past that leads everyone to treat her differently and this gives the film a nicely underplayed feminist subtext as she asserts her ability to work as well as anyone else. Scoot McNairy, first seen ordering someone’s tongue cut out, and Dermot Mulroney fare badly as generic underworld baddies, but there’s a nice turn from future Hellboy star David Harbour as Monaghan’s partner in the field.
Sleepless begins to lose some of its entertainment value when the machinations of the corruption inevitably have to take centre stage and the plot becomes a maze of double crosses. None of the revelations are particularly shocking and the final 20 minutes lose a great deal of the narrative’s excitement, building to a final twist that might have been intriguing if there had been any attempt to develop some of the minor characters early in the movie. For almost 90 minutes, though, this is a Sin City thriller that’s worth taking a gamble on.
There was a pretty pitiful selection on the DVD I got for review, including about half a dozen entirely unnecessary deleted scenes and a four-minute featurette about the making of the movie that just feels like an advert for the film you’ve already paid to watch.
Pop or Poop?
Jamie Foxx takes no prisoners as he smashes heads in action thriller Sleepless, which gets considerable tension and thrills from its confined setting. Supporting performances from the likes of Michelle Monaghan and David Harbour give texture to the world surrounding that central setting, though the crime side of it suffers from lacklustre characterisation.
It’s a little generic in terms of plotting and there’s no new ground being broken, but it’s an entertaining diversion that is well worth picking up on DVD.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Sleepless is available on Blu-ray/DVD in the UK from Monday, courtesy of Entertainment One.