[Review] – Sleepless Night

28 May

Title: Sleepless Night
Year: 2012
Director: Frédéric Jardin
Writer: Scenario by Frédéric Jardin and Nicolas Saada, adaptation and dialogue by Mr. Jardin and Olivier Douyère
Starring: Tomer Sisley, Serge Riaboukine, Julien Boisselier
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Runtime: 89 min
IMDb Rating: 6.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Metacritic: 76

Frédéric Jardin‘s Sleepless Night is one of those action movies that is so deceptively simple that you may not grasp how truly awesome the execution of all the action on display really is. We get a cop, Vincent, played by Tomer Sisley, that on the one side seems to be well-respected by his peers and totally devoted to his family, but on the other hand also seems to be quite corrupt. And then he attempts to steal cocaine from a powerful drug lord who then makes it personal and threatens to destroy not only Vincent’s career, but also his family. His teenage son is then kidnapped, and Vincent goes on a race against the clock to save him.

It’s simple because Mr. Jardin pretty much doesn’t bother at all with any kind of exposition; the stealing of the coke and the kidnapping of the son happen straight away, with Mr. Jardin not really caring much about little details and just jumping right into the breathless action pretty much straight away. Another simple thing is that the action takes place basically all in one place, this very shady kind of nightclub that makes all the action scenes feel great because of the close quarters. Like I said, this is a simple action-thriller kind of movie, but also a deceptively simple one.

Deceptively so because even though the action is indeed pretty much non-stop, Mr. Jardin also manages to never really lose sight of his main premise, and he does make that father-son relationship work really well for us to really invest in the story he’s telling. Before anything dangerous happens, he’s already gotten us to care about their relationship, because of how his son sees Vincent as pretty much a failure of a father who only spends time with him because he must. And we also get to know about his relationship with his estranged wife, whom he lies to in order to keep at bay about what’s really going on so that she doesn’t worry.

That personal storyline gets us involved, and the action just gets us to realize how damn awesome this film is. A lot that awesomeness is due to the fact that the cinematographer is Tom Stern, a frequent Clint Eastwood collaborator who also did The Hunger Games. This really has some of the very best shooting of action sequences I’ve seen in a while, and Mr. Jardin and Mr. Stern really know how to use their specific location in the best of ways to create some really inventive and memorable action choreographies, one of which actually includes Vincent dancing along to “Another One Bites the Dust” to blend in with the drunken clubbing crowd.

It’s awesome, really, how it’s all in constant movement and how there’s always the threat of some of the players here being double agents or not, it’s impossible not to be glued to Sleepless Night for its entire running time, and how not only is the film not limited at all by its set geographical location, but it’s actually enhanced by the fact that it uses it greatly, and that we get to know the nightclub ourselves. Not to mention that the club looks pretty damn huge to be honest, and that the film extends its use of it all the way to its kitchen area, but yeah, it’s just superbly used.

I loved how direct and clear this was, that’s actually what impressed me the most. The exposition is only the necessary minimum, and we buy into the stakes, and the stakes are upped by new revelations that start coming up one by one in the midst of all the great action. Every little thing here has a purpose towards the ending, and Mr. Jardin really knows how to handle it all to perfection; though, to be honest, it was the actual ending that prevents me from grading this one even higher, since I felt it was a tiny bit off tone. But still, this is one of the very best action movies of the past few years, and even though Warner Bros. has already announced plans for a remake, please make sure you seek this one out; not only is the remake not needed at all, but this is precisely the kind of movie that needs no translation.

The remake would also suck because I just don’t think that what Mr. Jardin pulled off here can really be replicated at all. How he makes the club pretty much feel like an extra character is amazing; and it’s awesome how he and Mr. Sisley manage to make Vincent a guy you really care about even though he has all these evident flaws, and they do so with pretty much no exposition, mostly aided by the truly intense performance of Mr. Sisley; and he gives us villains we instantly like to root against; and supporting characters that help make what may seem like a simple enough premise into a truly compelling movie. It’s all these things that make Sleepless Night transcend from being just a pretty kickass action movie, because here the action actually means something. And I just doubt that it will, at least not to this level, in the American remake.

Sleepless Night is the kind of action film we really need more of in this world. One in which you get a character with flaws but that you really like, one that gives us stakes that actually feel real, that gives us supporting characters that not only are great but that make our lead character more complex, that cares for its geography, and that pays a lot of attention the details of its choreography. I was just really impressed by this whole thing, the ending like I said kind of didn’t do it for as much as the rest of the film, but still, this one gets a ton of props from me.

Grade: A-

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