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There are no shortages of films featuring fathers on the verge of collapse as they face the worst in trying to save their children, with a recent revival of sorts in the genre as some older acting statesmen take up arms. With Sleepless, we get what we expect, a boilerplate action thriller with a mix of ups and downs that leave it a fairly maudlin experience despite some good moments and a certain style that move it along but not enough to lift it to where it could have gone.
Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx) is a Las Vegas detective who starts the story on the run. He and his partner Sean Cass (T.I.) have just stolen a huge shipment of cocaine from local mob boss Rob Novak (Scoot McNairy) who is the supplier for a hotel and casino owner named Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney) for his high end but top secret cliental. None too pleased, and a notoriously unforgiving sort, Novack takes matters into his own hands and kidnaps Vincent’s son Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson), demanding him in return for the drugs.
Meanwhile, Vincent’s colleague, Internal Affairs Detective Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan), herself recovering from a recent bust gone bad, is intent on exposing Vincent. Along with her partner Doug Dennison (David Harbour), they investigate and draw Vincent in and out of trouble, where connections begin to emerge and the troubled cop finds himself pressed into a twisted conspiracy that reveals all things are not what they seem as he struggles to save his son.
Directed by Baran bo Odar, Sleepless is an American remake of the 2011 French film Sleepless Night that best serves as a vehicle for the seemingly innumerable talents of Foxx, who, despite lapses in the script or otherwise, is endlessly watchable, carrying the awkward shifts in tone like a true screen star. That’s not easy as the film swings in all directions, and yet can’t get much momentum as it does little to shed its Taken influences.
And if there is anything it does right, it plays into the tropes and somewhat gleefully avoids the unnecessary bulk of things like complicated backstory or character development, feeding right into the action at the start that promises more than its second half can deliver. There’s some nice build up between these seedy characters that play with morality and heroics and even a bit of metaphorical parallelisms that might be made between Vincent and his ex-wife Dena (Gabrielle Union) concerning building bonds and a recurring knife wound Vincent sustained in the opening of the film that acts as a sort of burning fuse for the story.
The real problem with Sleepless is its blandness, a film that has many quality moments, including a number of solid fight scenes that harken back to the work of Paul Greengrass and the Bourne series, but without the spontaneity and authenticity those first films handled so well. Foxx is good and while there might be a select few that might have fit better, he keeps it his own, though others do just as well, including McNairy, who does some of best work since 2010’s Monsters. T.I. on the other hand is well out of element. But none these performances really matter much as the filmmakers are far more interested in the look than the feel, building up to an over-the-top third act that throws plausibility out the window as if in celebration of the ridiculous rather than for the fun of it.
Sleepless is nothing you haven’t seen before, even if it has a few clever moments that don’t quite pay off. It does what it does and it might offer a bit of a distraction for fans of the genre, but its shift in the second act away from the start of a challenging thriller ultimately sets it back, leaving this one that will likely disappear among the long list of others.
Movie description: Sleepless is a 2017 action adventure film about a cop who gets in over his head when he crosses the wrong people and ends up fighting to save his son.
Director(s): Baran bo Odar
Actor(s): Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Dermot Mulroney