Review of Sleepless Night

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A police officer with a connection to the criminal underworld finds his secret life exposed when he and his partner are caught stealing cocaine from a powerful drug dealer, a move that ends up putting his sons life in danger.
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Movie Review: "Sleepless Night" --

Rating: Not Rated
Length: 98 minutes
Release Date: May 11, 2012
Directed by: Frédéric Jardin
Genre: Crime, Foreign, Thriller
Stars: 3 out of 5

The first few scenes of "Sleepless Night" offer a glimpse of the thrills and action that keep audiences glued to their seats throughout the entire movie. The film opens with Vincent (Tomer Sisley) and Manuel (Laurent Stocker) attempting to rob 10 kilos of cocaine from two drug dealers working for drug lord Jose Marciano (Serge Riaboukine). The heist goes horribly wrong; Vincent is stabbed in the chest, and a drug dealer dies after a chase and shootout. Bystanders see Vincent's face, and this helps Marciano identify him and plan retribution. The audience then discovers that Vincent is a crooked cop tired of moonlighting for the drug lord. It was his decision to steal the cocaine so that he could enjoy an early and luxury-filled retirement.

The botched heist sets off an internal affairs investigation headed by Lacombe (Julien Boisselier). Things go from bad to worse when the drug lord kidnaps Vincent's son Thomas (Samy Seghir) and demands the drugs be handed over. The hectic and chaotic beginning briefly settles into order before all hell breaks loose again.

To rescue his son, Vincent has to return the drugs to the drug lord in a Walmart-sized nightclub in the middle of Paris. Manuel squeals on Vincent and helps Lacombe execute his own crooked personal agenda. This complicates matters for the hero, and he ends up battling the forces of good and evil simultaneously. This provides ample opportunity numerous action sequences. The movie focuses on Vincent's effort to become a better father despite the fact that he not a trustworthy person.

Director Frédéric Jardin deserves full credit for getting the audience to root for Vincent despite the fact that he is to blame for his son's predicament. The director sends subtle messages to the audience throughout the film suggesting that the hero is no different from any ordinary person with a share of flaws and shortcomings. His obvious pain and exhaustion caused by the stab wound creates a sense of empathy in the viewer. His visible desperation to save his son in the crowded and noisy night club makes the audience root for him despite his moral failings.

The seemingly straightforward exchange goes wrong when honest rookie cop Alex (Dominique Bettenfeld) switches the hiding place of the bag containing the drugs to help Lacombe arrest Vincent. The hero ends up running through lounges, restaurants and even an industrial kitchen to avoid the cops and gangsters baying for his blood. The scene in the industrial kitchen deserves a special mention for the high voltage slam-bang fight scenes with knives and bullets flying all around the space at breathtaking speed.

The movie could have easily degenerated into mindless and unimaginative fight scenes clumped together before the finale. This is where the director uses the limits of a single location to his advantage by using every room in the nightclub as a part of the chase. The clashes and fights on the fire escape and the shoving and pushing on the dance floor make the chase look exceptionally fast and realistic.

The film is not without its share of flaws. The fact that 75 percent of the plot unravels in a single location is not without its drawbacks. The repeated chase scenes in cramped spaces create a sense of monotony and fatigue. Despite this, the crisp editing and smart character development keep the audience spell bound.

The dizzying rate at which people double-cross each other in this movie is often bewildering. Even Alex ends up causing more harm than good despite being the only decent (relatively speaking) character in the entire movie.

The rave reviews "Sleepless Night" won at Toronto and Tribeca are well justified. The twists and thrills are interspersed with scenes that provide emotional and comic relief. The gag involving a West Indian drug dealer being constantly mistaken for a Turk made for humorous interludes in an otherwise serious and somber setting.

Tomer Sisley deserves special mention for his portrayal of the flawed two-timing cop. He plays an unethical man who desperately wishes to ensure his mistakes do not end up threatening the life of his son. He did a particularly outstanding job in the action scenes. The actor who plays this role in Warner Brothers' American remake will have to do a terrific job to match Tomer's performance. On the whole, this movie is a fun watch despite its flaws and offers good value for money.