Director: Baran bo Odar
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Dermot Mulroney, David Harbour, Scoot McNairy, Octavius J. Johnson, Gabrielle Union, Tip "T.I." Harris
MPAA Rating: (for strong violence and language throughout)
Running Time: 1:35
Release Date: 1/13/17
Review by Mark Dujsik | January 13, 2017
Sleepless begins with promise. It is, after all, based on the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night (by director Frédéric Jardin, who co-wrote that screenplay with Nicolas Saada), which presented a corker of a cat-and-mouse game within a nightclub. The basics of the plot in Andrea Berloff's screenplay for this American remake essentially remain the same, although the location has shifted to a casino on the Las Vegas strip. The expanded scope of the locale is also promising, although one must remember the old adage about the correlation between bigger and better. This movie, unfortunately, keeps reminding us of it.
The story, for those unacquainted with the original, is about a seemingly crooked cop who gets in over his head and has to survive the night in a confined location, as members of the criminal underworld and his fellow cops try to catch him. There's also the detail that his son has been abducted by one faction of criminals, which keeps him in the place.
The cop is Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx), who begins the story stealing bag filled with cocaine with his partner Sean Cass (Tip "T.I." Harris). Berloff's screenplay clarifies a few details upfront and muddles some of the others. Here, we learn almost immediately that Vincent is only pretending to be a crooked cop. He has been undercover for two years, unbeknownst to anyone else.
It put a strain on his marriage to Dena (Gabrielle Union), who is now engaged to a new guy, and on his relationship with his son Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson), who is nabbed from Vincent's car in the middle of a heated father-son argument. Vincent is stabbed in the process, and he spends the rest of the movie nursing a nasty wound.
As it turns out, the cocaine belonged to Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney), the corrupt owner of a local casino, and it was supposed to passed on to a crime family that has been having problems with the DEA. Rob Novak (Scoot McNairy), the son of the crime boss, is particularly ruthless (and has a strange fascination with sports-based intimidation).
That's one half of Vincent's problems. The other involves Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) of the internal affairs division. She's convinced that Vincent is a dirty cop. Her suspicion is confirmed when she follows him to the casino and finds the garbage bag full of cocaine that he has hidden—hoping to use it as leverage for Thomas' release. Jennifer's boss (David Harbour) soon joins her search for Vincent.
One of the key differences between this remake and the original is the presumption of guilt or innocence. Whereas the original film gave us reason to suspect everyone of being crooked and then, for the most part, confirmed the assumption (It was a surprise if a character wasn't ethically compromised), this version of the story starts everyone who isn't an obvious criminal with as clean a slate as possible. The question is not, as it was in the original film, one of how corrupt the system can get but, in this variation, of which character is the secretly, really corrupt one. It's the difference between examining the state of things and withholding information for a third-act revelation.
It's also the difference between knowing—and, hence, being allowed to admire—the mechanics of a well-constructed plot and simply waiting for the machinery of the plot to get to an end result. The plot's setup, as all of the players converge on the casino, remains effective. As much as director Baran bo Odar attempts to keep the momentum going, Foxx seems a bit removed from the urgency of this situation, playing it cool and slightly annoyed (by his ex-wife's phone calls about her son's sudden disappearance, for example). Monaghan has the right idea here, even if her character spends a good portion of the movie waiting or looking for someone else (Nobody thinks to use the casino's abundant security cameras after Vincent eludes them one time). She's forced into action when Vincent looks directly at her while he's in disguise, even though he's about a second from getting away with the charade, because, well, he needs a bit of a head start in a chase scene that, apparently, has to happen.
Like that scene, the rest of the movie, almost inevitability, becomes sillier and more contrived as it goes, because the filmmakers have opted for more and bigger things without compensating for the minimalism of the premise. This is the kind of movie that nearly falls apart in the third act, as hidden villains come to light, a chase breaks out by means of a convenient sports car on the casino floor, and Vincent's ex-wife shows up just in time to find herself in a perilous situation. By the time the climactic hide-and-seek/shootout sequence in an underground parking garage arrives, the need for action—by even absurd means—has overtaken the simplicity of the premise.
The drastic change between the two movies' endings pretty much sums it up. The original concluded on a note of ambiguity. Sleepless resolves everything and then takes it a step further to suggest the possibility of a sequel. It doesn't only have to be clear in this version. There must be more and more.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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