Sleepless review

Title: Sleepless
Director: Baran bo Odar
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Scoot McNairy
Genre: Action
Runtime: 1 Hour 35 mins
Music: Michael Kamm
Studio: Open Road Films
Certificate: US: R UK: 15
Release Date: US: Jan 13 2017 UK: May 05 2017
See If You Like: Die Hard, John Wick,
Django Vs. drug-dealers…

A dirty cop steals from a Vegas drug-lord and, instead of coming after him for revenge, they took his son; so this time, it’s personal; and so goes the plot for Sleepless, an enjoyable, though fairly average, ’90s era action throwback starring Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained) as the latest John McClane.

Foxx’s Vincent may not be the perfect mirror to McClane (he starts off robbing drug-dealers for one thing, and isn’t as memorable or witty), but the Die Hard comparisons are inevitable; not only is Vincent a wounded warrior (getting stabbed near the beginning of the movie, and finding things worsen for the duration), but barring the initial thievery, a couple of police-house discussions, and his son’s kidnapping, the entire movie, and all of the action, takes place in one location, a fictional Las Vegas casino – which, like the Nagatomi Plaza, should be a fantastic place to spend 90 minutes, were the Vegas backdrop to be presented anything other than under-used window-dressing.

Like the Vegas setting itself, the entire film reeks of wasted potential; while the cast contains a fair amount of on-screen talent, scripting issues mean the characters are paper-thin and their motivations/reasoning often laughable or downright baffling. Plot-twists can be seen coming a mile-off, and the minimal plot not only finds itself riddled with holes but failing to be lifted by stylistic missteps (every room, every character, and every beat of Sleepless comes with a ‘seen it all before’ air of mid-level copy-and-paste-by-numbers action filmmaking).

While clearly a huge talent, Foxx’s soft-talking approach doesn’t always land in a film which should have more panache; a film ripe for a ready quip which never comes, but could easily benefit from a swift injection of some dark humour. Still, he’s more than capable of handling himself during the fairly well-shot action sequences, and is far from terrible overall. Likewise, playing a hard-bitten Internal Affairs investigator should give Michelle Monaghan plenty to sink her teeth into, but sadly the Made Of Honour star is largely left frowning across a casino floor (aimlessly looking for suspects in a drug investigation she appears to be almost purposefully screwing up), and doesn’t get much of a chance to show off her acting chops.

The same can also be said of all supporting stars; Scoot McNairy (12 years A Slave) plays an unbelievably calm psychopath who inevitably goes off the deep end for next to no reason whatsoever; David Harbour (The Equalizer) appears as Monaghan’s partner, and supposedly her voice of reason throughout the evening’s events, but ends up as nothing more than a moaning commentator; Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding) plays a mid-level drug dealer who does nothing but look scared of the bigger dealer; and Gabrielle Union (Bring It On) does little aside from sound mildly worried her son is missing (via a handful of short phone calls). All do the best with what they have, but fail to make any lasting impression thanks to a poorly constructed script with poorly developed characters.

Yet Sleepless does have a few things going for it; the singular location, and entire film taking place over a single evening, leads to an interesting format (despite things becoming rather farcical in the third act). It also helps keep the film short, and fairly well paced at merely an hour-and-a-half long. Baran bo Odar (Who Am I), though making a number of misfires with this, his English-language debut, proves himself to be fairly capable when it comes to filming a fist-fight, and does capture a hint of what made those 1990s Steven Seagal movies so watchable; a no-nonsense set-up with a, usually vulnerable, anti-hero who was never more than five minutes from kicking someone’s head in.

Rife with plot holes, laughable character motivations, a solid but thoroughly under-utilised cast, and average-at-best-direction, Sleepless is a mild, easy-to-watch, action movie which does some things right (it’s great to see an action hero who actually gets hurt, as opposed to the near-invulnerable Liam Neeson’s we’ve grown used to the genre presenting), gets a lot of things wrong (it’s predictable, lacks humour, character development, and any original ideas), but never outstays its welcome at just over 90 minutes long.

An hour-and-a-half of average, ’90s-like, action. Sleepless is entertaining, though easily forgettable, and far from a big-screen must-see. Do yourself a favour, and wait for it to pop-up on Netflix.

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

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Matt Wheeldon is the Founder, and Editor in Chief of Good Film Guide. He still refers to the cinema as "the pictures", and has what some would describe as a misguided appreciation for Waterworld.