It’s not very often that I struggle to make it to the end of a film. In fact, had I not agreed to review Baran bo Odar’s Sleepless, I probably would have given up after the first twenty minutes. There is a reason this terrible attempt at a slick cop thriller is sitting at a 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s absolutely awful on so many, many levels. It’s tired, cliched, riddled with turgid dialogue and performances – even the ‘action’ is farcical. All of this combined gives this particular ‘blockbuster’ a rather low budget feel.
Swiss director bo Odar cites Lawrence of Arabia and Blade Runner as his favourite films and biggest inspirations. You will find no traces of either here. I think he’s attempted to create some sort of Departed-esque “who’s the dirty cop” type thriller, and failed miserably. Largely because the calibre of the acting, script and plot twists are nowhere near Scorsese’s excellent 2006 film.
I would attempt to get in to the plot, but sadly there isn’t one. There’s just a mesh of ideas about drugs, undercover cops and an absolutely pathetic kidnapping attempt. The idea of Dermot Mulroney as some sort of drugs kingpin is hysterical while Gabrielle Union’s idea of “pulling a double shift” at an ICU unit involves a lot of time texting or making phone calls.
Well-paced, sensible dialogue is at the heart of any good film, particularly in the thriller genre, yet it’s entirely absent here. The script is staid and incredibly dull; delivering one verbal turd after another. Watching Michelle Monaghan screech “get that muthafucka” several times over is laughable; whilst Scoot McNairy says things like “Where ma drugs at? Whey dey at?” in a weird attempt at appearing threatening. Occasionally, Jamie Foxx will litter his speech with the ‘n’ word – no doubt to show how gritty and ghetto life as an undercover cop is.
Pretty much all of the action – I use that word loosely – takes place inside the Luxus Casino and Nightclub. Naturally, this lends itself to gratuitous shots of revelers, gamblers and all forms of exotic dancers. There are a couple of fight sequences that take place in the midst of the nightclub and I couldn’t help but find myself comparing it to Michael Mann’s phenomenal thriller Collateral, which, coincidentally, also stars Jamie Foxx. Sadly, he comes up lacking this time.
There is something weird about the fight choreography in this film. Everyone takes too long to throw a punch or fire a gun. For example, if someone was running at you, with their arm swung back and raising a clenched fist, you could pretty much guess they were going to throw a punch at you. And do ‘professional hard men’ really raise their opponents six feet in the air in order to throttle them? It all looks a bit amateurish.
The violence leads to a lot of gaping plot holes, too. Gabrielle Union actively getting out of her car and running towards gun fire, being one such point. There is also the issue of the cast not reacting to being assaulted. Jamie Fox can barely walk at one point from a stab wound but, minutes later, is engaging in a full-on fight across a kitchen. He’s throwing people through glass, dodging meat cleavers and running at full speed. How?
Octavius J. Johnson (playing Foxx’s son) fares no better. Having had his hand crushed by a fire extinguisher – during which, he hardly whimpers – he is miraculously able to use it in the forthcoming scenes.
Sleepless feels like it was cobbled together over a few short weeks. There is no real effort made when it comes to creating a compelling story and a script to go with it. At times, the cast seem weirdly over-committed to their lines and, at other points, like they have nothing better to do. It’s a bizarre mélange of worn-out clichés and nonsensical attempts at plot twists – you can see the ending coming a mile off.
Sadly, this film is less Sleepless, more tired and boring.