D: Baran bo Odar / 95m
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Dermot Mulroney, Scoot McNairy, David Harbour, Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris, Gabrielle Union, Octavius J. Johnson, Tim Connolly
Vincent Downs (Foxx) is a crooked Las Vegas cop. Sean Cass (Harris) is his equally crooked partner. Together they steal twenty-five bundles of cocaine (though why they do this is a little fuzzy). Their use of department issue weapons gains the attention of Internal Affairs officer, Jennifer Bryant (Monaghan), who immediately suspects Downs of the theft. Convinced by her own intuition that he’s dirty, she brings her suspicions to her partner, Doug Dennison (Harbour), but he’s not convinced. Meanwhile, Downs – who has an ex-wife, Dena (Union) and teenage son Thomas (Johnson) – is trying to maintain a semblance of post-divorce family life when Thomas is abducted by local casino-cum-crime boss Stanley Rubino (Mulroney). The reason for this? Simple: the cocaine is his and he wants it back, or Thomas will pay for Downs’ actions.
Downs takes the cocaine to Rubino’s casino, but in one of those plot “twists” that never make sense, he hides twenty-three of the bundles in the casino, gives Rubino the other two and bargains for his son’s life, stating that he’ll hand over the rest when he knows his son is safe. Rubino agrees, but when Downs tries to retrieve the rest of the cocaine from its hiding place, he discovers that Bryant (who has been following him) has taken it, and in a move that would have her investigated by Internal Affairs as well, has hidden it elsewhere in the casino. But there’s a further wrinkle: the cocaine is owed to gangster Bobby Novak (McNairy), and he’s there to collect…
Nuit blanche. That’s the title of the French/Belgian/Luxembourgian co-production, released in 2011 that, in its English language guise, has become Sleepless. If it matters to you, Nuit blanche (aka Sleepless Night) has a score of 75 on Metacritic, while Sleepless has a score of 33. Which version would you rather see? (Don’t worry, it’s a rhetorical question.) Inevitably, Sleepless – a title that makes no sense without the word “night” attached to it – is professionally made, glamorous to look at, has Foxx and Monaghan working really hard to overcome the preposterousness of Andrea Berloff’s urgent-but-empty screenplay, and never once makes you care about Downs or his son’s predicament. It tries to, on several occasions, but thanks to a combination of Berloff’s writing and director Odar’s reliance on style over substance, it has a shallow, seen-it-all-before vibe that harms the movie more than it helps it, and which stops it from letting the audience in on the – sadly – warmed over intrigue.
Remakes of foreign language movies often suffer in comparison because there are more things that can be lost in translation than just the dialogue. Tone, the original movie’s rhythm, its location, its visual aesthetic, any subtexts – all these and more can be either abandoned or discarded in the process of “re-imagining” a movie for audiences who speak another language (though surely that’s what subtitles are for?). There may be an element of “we can do better” about these remakes, and though that certainly isn’t the case with Sleepless (and despite any intentions its makers may have had), this is still a bad idea that lets down audiences at every turn. Even its fight scenes, which see Foxx get pummelled regularly but to minimal effect even though he has a stab wound to deal with, don’t elicit enough reaction to be successful in themselves. And if an action thriller can’t get those scenes right…
Rating: 4/10 – lacklustre, and padded out with way too many establishing shots of Las Vegas itself (we know where we are, for Foxx’ sake), Sleepless is a run-of-the-mill effort that tries hard but doesn’t know how to deliver; an over-complicated script proves too much for the cast to deal with, and despite its relatively compact running time, you’ll be wishing for a quicker resolution than is actually on offer.