Tribeca 2012 Review: The Exceptional "Sleepless Night" Brings First-Rate Action At A Breathless Pace

Tribeca 2012 Review: The Exceptional "Sleepless Night" Brings First-Rate Action At A Breathless Pace

Review by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

Follow @ComplexPopCult

To find out more: Sleepless Night

There’s an easy, tell-tale, and, sadly, slightly depressing way to discern whether a foreign genre flick is something special: Just check to see if there’s already an American remake in development. And, no, it doesn’t matter whether the original movie has even been released stateside yet. That theory undeniably applies to French filmmaker Frederic Jardin’s visceral, deftly constructed action-thriller Sleepless Night, the first Tribeca Film Festival screening of which will take place this Sunday at 9:30 p.m. EST in NYC (and is currently available via Tribeca’s Video-On-Demand).

After a few rather splashy and unanimously triumphant festival showings late last year, Sleepless Night started gathering the types of critical praise that immediately turns a little film into a kind of a big deal; in late September, word hit that Warner Bros. had swooped in and claimed the English-language redo’s rights. But do yourselves a favor: Catch Jardin’s O.G. version, don’t wait for the inevitably inferior remake. Sleepless Nightis one fierce action picture.

The film kicks off in a routine manner: A pair of masked men, Vincent (Tomer Sisley) and Manu (Laurent Stocker), rob a couple of drug dealers and leave the scene with one dead dealer, a knife wound in Vincent’s stomach, and the furious ire of narcotics overlord Marciano (Serge Riabukine). The opening sequence feels familiar, but then it’s quickly revealed that Vincent and Manu are actually cops—corrupt ones, of course—and it’s not long after that plot turn that the former’s teenage son gets kidnapped and sequestered inside a jam-packed, darkly lit nightclub owned by Marciano.

Once Vincent heads into the club, stashes Marciano’s cocaine in the men’s bathroom’s ceiling, and meets with the kingpin to rescue his kid, Sleepless Night flips the script into a single-location adrenaline rush similar to Die Hard; the remainder of the action—comprised of double-crosses, fellow police officers determined to bring Vincent down, fist-fights, and gunfire— takes place inside Marciano’s discotheque, called La Tarmac, and it’s inside the venue’s walls that Jardin’s and co-writer Nicolas Saada’s airtight screenplay really settles into a veracious groove. And, like the aforementioned Die Hard, Sleepless Night greatly benefits from its sympathetic and physically imposing leading man. As Vincent, Sisley gives a real one-two punch of a performance: When it’s necessary for the film’s morally ambiguous hero to garner compassion, Sisley carries the role with emotional heft and a believable gravitas, and when it’s time to whoop some bad guy, and occasionally good guy, ass, he’s no joke.

And, to the audience's advantage, Jardin subjects his star to a series of hardcore skirmishes and improvise-to-survive moments, all of which Sisley handles with aplomb. As does Jardin himself, shooting Sleepless Night’s brutal and frantic brawls and foot chases with a visual clarity that’s often incoherently staged in action cinema. He’s right at home filming two characters engaging in a weapons-free smackdown inside the club’s cluttered kitchen, nor does a nifty bit in which Vincent bobs and weaves away from bullets while handcuffed to his scared-shitless son present Jardin with any tangible difficulties. For a movie that moves as quickly and remains as unpredictable and taut as Sleepless Night does, it’s quite remarkable how seamlessly Jardin gels all of its pieces together.

We can picture the eventual remake now: An erratically paced and visually loud piece of by-the-numbers Hollywood filmmaking starring either Denzel Washington or Mark Wahlberg as the lead, looking something like Washington’s recent hit Safe House. In other words, a generic yet accessible-to-mainstream-audiences production that’s far glossier than Jardin’s formidable Sleepless Night, which, at this stage of our Tribeca 2012 experience, is not only the lineup’s best action film, it’s also one of the fest’s all-around top options.

Review by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

Follow @ComplexPopCult

To find out more: Sleepless Night

Tags: tribeca-film-festival, france, action-movies, sleepless-night, frederic-jardin
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