Sleepless Night already made a huge impact with film-goers following its screening at TIFF this year. By the time Andy and I had left the theater after today’s enthusiastic showing at Fantastic Fest, Warner Bros. had already picked up the remake rights to the film. Frederic Jardin’s twisted tale of dirty cops and greasy gangsters is a speeding get-away car that barrels down the highway at 100 mph threatening to tip over with every bend in the road. Thankfully, the tight script and quick editing make this a contender as one of the best films of the fest after only the first day of the festival.
Sleepless Night opens with a pair of masked men holding up a car carrying cocaine in the middle of the day. The loud gunshots, subtle but unnerving music, and gritty film style are very reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Heat or the opening scene of The Dark Knight. This kinetic pace that starts the film with a bang continues for the entire 98 minute duration of the film. Buckle-up and take a deep breath, because you are only going to get a handful of pauses in the action. We learn that the two men are undercover cops who are stealing the drugs from club-owner/gangster Jose Marciano. Unfortunately for one of the dirty cops, Vincent, Marciano enacts revenge by kidnapping Vincent’s only son. What follows is an 80 minute trip over the course of one night at Marciano’s club. Vincent attempts to return the drugs, a pair of undercover cops follow Vincent, Marciano in turn tries to return the drugs he owes to an agitated client, and Vincent’s young son is being held hostage – all of this amounts to one chaotic and entangled mess. Set against a backdrop of loud club music and a venue filled with dancing boys and girls, Sleepless Night moves at a lively speed that has you on the edge of your seat the entire time .
Action films are all well and good, but they rarely carry any emotional weight without the power of talented actors. Tomer Sisley is captivating as the troubled Vincent. Although we know he has gotten himself in the current position he is in, Sisley does such a great job portraying the desperate cop struggling for a way out. We empathize with him even if he’s kind of a ruthless scumbag. All of the actors, including the hilarious Serge Riaboukine as the drug-lord Marciano, do a remarkable job. Yet, the real element of the film that stands out the most is Frederic Jardin’s tight direction. He incorporates a lot of hand-held, off the cuff style while still infusing a lot of unique camera-shots as well. The music and editing only add to the non-stop chase sequences. The tension finally comes to a climax in an elaborately-staged kitchen sequence before getting ramped-up once again. The kitchen sequence is shockingly brutal without ever feeling like a Looney-Tunes skit. You may feel that the fight goes on for a couple of minutes too long, but that only adds to the surprising and realistic nature of the fight.
Sleepless Night is The Departed energized with the pace of Jason Bourne. The French film only lets you catch your breath twice in what is otherwise a non-stop ride. I did feel that the film was wearing a little thin towards the end, and the final moments seemed forced. Otherwise, I feel it goes down as one of the most inventive and fun mob films as of late. Rarely does a film like Sleepless Night grab you and hold you in its firm and sweaty grip for the full 90 minutes. Yet, that is exactly what it does. Hopefully this kinetic piece of gangster art gets released before Hollywood does its best to screw it up.