Sleepless Night (***)

Though not quite as exhilarating or as balls to the wall as ‘The Raid: Redemption’ was, the French film ‘Sleepless Night’ is still a very good action flick that uses confined spaces and desperation to its advantage to craft a simple yet enthralling tale. I won’t claim that it’s particularly highbrow stuff, but it’s very entertaining. Co-writer/director Frédéric Jardin makes the most of a limited location and never lets things get boring or too implausible. The movie is deceptively simple, but at the same time, you’re never going to have to worry about being confused either. Most of the time, you’re just enjoying the twisty tale and Tomer Sisley owning the lead role with intensity and dedication. Sadly, even though this film is opening on Friday in limited release, the most likely opportunity for most of you to see it will either be on VOD or when it’s inevitably remade into a Hollywood feature. I don’t doubt that the remake could potentially be good, but I’m sure it in all likelihood won’t stack up to the original. This is a fun little thriller, and one I think is well worth seeing.

Vincent (Sisley) is a dirty cop, but not an evil one. He and his partner Manuel (Laurent Stocker) have decided to make some easy money by pulling a drug heist. They’ve planned it all out, but not nearly as carefully as they should have, because they don’t do the job well at all. They wind up with the cocaine they came for, but one of the thugs they robbed was killed in the fray, and the other escaped to tell crime boss Jose Marciano (Serge Riaboukine) what went down. Not missing a beat, Marciano kidnaps Vincent’s teenage son Thomas (Samy Seghir) and holding him hostage at his nightclub. All Vincent has to do is deliver the coke to Marciano and the kid is free. He goes there with that intention, but after hiding the drugs in a bathroom before going to speak with Marciano and confirming that his son is unharmed, he returns to find the bag full of coke gone. Now he has to try and trick the gangster into letting his son go without the drugs, but if that’s not all, there’s another bad guy hanging around causing trouble for him, in addition to two other cops hot on his trail (one of which, played by Julien Boisselier and is both dirtier than Vincent and also tasked with busting him). Everything is going wrong for Vincent, and he’s stuck at this club the entire time. It all comes together in an interesting enough way, but the fun of the plot is in watching Vincent get himself repeatedly into and out of trouble.

While I won’t claim that the acting is awards worthy, I’d love to see Tomer Sisley become a legitimate action star. He has a good screen presence and you feel for him as the hero as he works his way through a crowded club, even if he doesn’t especially do many heroic things. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility for Sisley to show up in some Hollywood flicks before long, maybe even as a villain. Speaking of which, Serge Riaboukine chews the scenery in a surprisingly humorous way as the man threatening Vincent. It’s not quite Jack Nicholson in ‘The Departed’, but it’s not exactly far off either. These two men are the highlights of the flick in terms of acting, but they’re joined in the cast by the aforementioned Samy Seghir, Laurent Stocker and Julien Boisselier, along with Joey Starr, Lizzie Brocheré, and Birol Ünel, among others. They’re all fine, but keep your eye out for Sisley, as he’s going places.

Frédéric Jardin has crafted a taut little film that showcases both his writing and directing skill. As director, he manages to never make you notice how confined the spaces of the movie often are, but does make you notice the chase/fight scenes, which are very well done. He also keeps things moving at a good pace, even if the film runs slightly longer than you’d prefer it too. As a screenwriter, he (along with Olivier Douyère and Nicolas Saada), he keeps the film from ever being too talky, though at times there are a few more contrivances that I’d have preferred. That’s not a huge deal, but it does keep the work from being a classic in my eyes. Still, this is very solidly made work and worthy of admiration.

‘Sleepless Night’ isn’t at all trying to re-invent the action/thriller genre in any way, but it does try to distinguish itself from the bunch, and in that regard it surely succeeds. There are better films than this out there in the world (mostly in different genres), but there are tons worse as well, so it’s very easy to recommend this one to you. My colleague Matt Singer is a big fan of this flick, and while I’m not nearly as into the work as he is, I did enjoy it quite a bit, so take my advice and check this movie out…you’ll have a good time with it, I can almost assure you!

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