“Sleepless Night,” written by Frederic Jardin, Nicolas Saada (scenario) and Olivier Douyere (adaptation and dialogue), directed by Jardin, 98 minutes.
When it comes to action-thrillers, more often than not the characters are the leafy greens you’re forced to chew on in between bites of chocolate lava cake aka “the action.” It’s the expensive, slick eye candy that everyone pays to see, but few will own up to it. “Sleepless Night,” the French import from Frederic Jardin, however, is the exception. I came for the intensity, and I left astounded by a surprisingly well-developed lead character with more than two dimensions. What a novelty.
The film stars Tomer Sisley (“Largo Winch”) as Vincent, a corrupt cop with ties deep into the criminal underworld. When he’s caught stealing a hefty load of cocaine from renowned drug dealer Jose Marciano (Serge Riaboukine), the kingpin takes exception and abducts Vincent’s son, Thomas (Samy Seghir), as ransom for the cocaine. It’s a simple tradeoff, until an internal affairs team throws a wrench into the works, playing a shell game with the drugs while the life of Vincent’s son hangs in the balance.
“Sleepless Night” moves at a breakneck pace, confined almost entirely to the nightclub owned by Marciano. Jardin uses every inch of the club to his advantage (particularly the kitchen), squeezing as much action out of each room as is cinematically possible. Sure, the scenes of police and criminals shoving their way through crowds of clubgoers gets a little tired after a while, but considering the tight space and the insane beats per minute the film is running at, it’s excusable.
Yes, “Sleepless Night” gives you that quick-fix of action likely to leave you as jittery as a Red Bull IV, but let’s talk about Vincent and Tomer Sisley. The film’s final moments are surprisingly quiet, subdued, and sudden. It gives you time to reflect on Vincent, who does a complete 180 from the low-life tough guy and absent father we meet in the first act. Underneath all that energy and commotion, there’s a father-son relationship and a lead character with depth. Kudos to Sisley and Jardin for making “Sleepless Night” more than just guns, drugs and crime.
You’ve gotta hand it to the French. They know how to make a damn fine thriller.