Sunday Editor’s Pick: Sleepless Night (2011)

by on April 16, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Sun April 22 at 9:30, Thurs April 26 at 8:30, and Fri April 27 at 11:30 at Chelsea Clearview [Program & Tix]


Yes folks, it’s that time again. Another installment of the behemoth Tribeca Film Festival takes over our fair city, beginning Thursday April 19. We kick off our coverage with a fun one. In fact, so fun that \ Warner Bros is already set for a more palatable, subtitle-free American remake. We suspect you’ll be glad you saw the original here.


Steve Dollar for GreenCine Daily:

A French thriller that stars Euro action hunk Tomer Sisley as Vincent, a crooked Parisian cop who hijacks a big drug deal and makes off with a lucrative tote bag of cocaine, only to have the young son he neglects kidnapped by a local gangster who wants his stash back. Already slated for a Hollywood remake (paging Liam Neeson), the film’s calling card is its relentless action. It never stops. Director Frédéric Jardin situates everything in a sprawling nightclub that becomes a kind of rat’s maze for Vincent, as he tries to rescue his son while being chased by or chasing the mob boss who owns the joint, the drug dealers who bought the cocaine, the good cop who wants to bust him and the even more corrupt cop who wants to kill him, and everyone else he’s pissed off, which he manages to do constantly. And, oh yeah, he’s slowly bleeding to death from a stab wound suffered in the heist. Sisley’s vigorous momentum and the often intricate stagings call to mind the razzle-dazzle of Paul Greengrass’ Bourne movies, but with a fragile protagonist who keeps fucking everything up. If he was James Bond, then Dr. Evil would have blown up the moon already. In this construction, though, the bad guys are equally inept, and a packed disco floor makes everything way complicated—and supplies an excuse to frame a contender for the year’s best chase sequence, set in the middle of a Eurotrash line dance to “Another One Bites the Dust.”


Scott Macaulay for Filmmaker:

When you go to a film festival, you’re hoping for the new — films with a radical cinematic language, or content you’ve never seen before. But sometimes in your quest for new sensations you can be gobsmacked by the familiar, especially when it’s done very, very well. Indeed, the two most satisfying films I’ve seen so far at the festival are straight-up and smartly executed genre films that excite due to both genuine thrills but also canny, fresh attitudes towards their stories.
Shot by Eastwood d.p. Tom Stern, Sleepless Night has a gritty, no-frills quality that is refreshing in an era in which so many genre films are burdened down by gimmicky camera tricks. Most impressively, though, is the way that Jardin builds our sympathy for his bleeding-out protagonist. At the film’s opening he’s a risible corrupt cop, but as it progresses, we see — and care for — him as a concerned dad. But don’t worry — the family melodrama is kept in check. True to its name, Sleepless Night never stops moving, serving up brutal twists and betrayals even into the waking hours.



Colin Geddes in the TIFF Programmer’s Note:

A gunshot shatters the early-morning silence on the streets of Paris as two men in balaclavas intercept a car on a drug run. In the rushed heist that follows, one of the drug carriers in the vehicle is shot. The other escapes, but not before getting a glimpse of one of the men unmasked. The next day, one of the thieves, Vincent (Tomer Sisley of Largo Winch), is addressed as lieutenant in the bathroom at work. This reveal — that the robbers are really cops — is the first of many in Frédéric Jardin’s SleeplessNight, which peels back layers of deceit one by one as the film plunges forward.
Sleepless Night is a lean, mean action film that moves at breakneck speed. Sharply choreographed chase sequences careen through the tight crowds in Jose’s extravagant club, slickly shot by cinematographer Tom Stern, who has worked with Clint Eastwood for nearly thirty years. Sisley offers an emotionally raw performance as a cop on his most desperate mission, matched by often darkly comical turns from the many villains he’s trying to outrun. Jardin envisions his thriller as if set inside an M.C. Escher painting, its mystery twisting and looping in a seemingly endless puzzle.
This is an all-nighter of action: pop some caffeine and run headfirst into Jardin’s gritty world of good cops, bad cops and vicious drug dealers, all flashing under strobe lights and set to a throbbing techno beat.



Matt Singer for IFC:

After a long day at Fantastic Fest, a midnight screening of “Sleepless Night” woke me up more effectively than any cup of coffee I’ve ever had in my life. Hours later, I was still riding the high. So the movie’s not only great, the title’s accurate too. Exposition is kept to a minimum; action defines character. Impressions are made, then upended by new revelations, onion-peeling style.
So what are the qualities that define a great action movie? If we follow the example set by “Sleepless Night,” you need a great protagonist on a quest with some real stakes, fighting a villain you love to hate. From 90-odd minutes Vincent wriggles like a fly in a spider’s web. Each move for freedom gets him stuck in ever deeper trouble. Everywhere he turns there are multiple villains we love to hate, including a few surprise ones. Sisley’s performance as Vincent is as relentlessly intense as the film around him. His situation is so dire and his love for his son runs so deep, you can’t help but root for him despite his flaws. So the action isn’t just cool, it means something.
Lastly, a great action movie definitely need at least one balls-out, tooth-and-nail fight scene like the one that takes place between Vincent and another character in the kitchen of Marciano’s club. In every moment of that fight you can tell who is who, where they are, and what they’re doing. The choreography is clear and the integration of the environment is inventive; if the Oscars added a category for Best Use of Kitchen Drawers, “Sleepless Night” would be a shoo-in. Come to think of it, if they added a Best Action Movie category it would be a shoo-in for that one too.



Kurt Halfyard for Twitch:

As far as I can tell, the entire film takes place within 24 hours, but the pacing is so relentless, that at times, it feels like a single whirlwind take. You can probably imagine the logistical challenges to making an action driven chase film set almost completely inside a mega-sized night club: camera placement, sound continuity, controlling the tightly packed horde of extras and communicating the complicated geography of the place to the viewer. Director Frederic Jardin not only rises to the challenge, but throws laughs heartily in the glory of what is possible with this basic genre concept. He layers in the sack full of cocaine, a dozen or more mobile phones, changing clothing, and teenage hostage that change locations as often as they change ownership. The mind reels thinking just how damn well this is executed. A scuffle in the kitchen involving a baton has the hero opening drawers as he crawls underneath to block from being clubbed, later, a similar trick of opening a series doors in a corridor to block bullets. These are visually pure images shot with real panache. The press of flesh and sweat and desperation is palpable as the lines of who is who, who knows what, who is where and where are they headed gets blurry. This is all dizzy pleasure, akin to the twists and turns of Fabian Belinski’s clockwork confidence scheme in Nine Queens or Martin Brest’s buddy comedy Midnight Run. Objects and people travel at high speed through the packed main floor, pounding with French Drum and Bass (or in one great set piece, a DJ mash-up of Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust.”), into the kitchens, restaurants, corridors, duct work, strong vault, the parking lot (and various vehicles, and several the mens and ladies room. They are captured from all sorts of strange angles by cinematographer Stern who alternates effectively between both visceral and stately visual strategy.
The film juggles relationships just as effortlessly, who is on whose side and whose side they thing others are on, without losing the films focus on Vincent getting his son back. You would think with all that attention to detail would be enough, but then Jardin throws in some real heart with the arc between Vincent and Thomas, proving that the relationship between father and son can be the knottiest one of all. As action pictures go, Sleepless Night is a complete and satisfying package that will make genre aficionados and general audience alike, stand up and take notice.



Todd Gilchrist for The Playlist:

Containment thrillers can often be limited by the landscape of their locale, but in the French film “Sleepless Night,” the nightclub where corrupt cop Vincent (Tomer Sisley) races to rescue his son is expansive enough to make it seem like a mini-mall. Writer-director Frederic Jardin somehow manages to squeeze every last drop of claustrophobia from the massive, multilevel building, even after he’s filled it wall-to-wall with clubgoers, diners, socialites, and especially the odd assortment of cops and crooks who all have a stake in Vincent’s future. Although it’s quite deservedly scheduled for an American remake via the folks at Warner Brothers, “Sleepless Night” is the kind of entertainment that requires little translation to succeed, as its characters and story are so cleanly and cleverly designed that they would work in virtually any language.
“Sleepless Night” is the sort of action thriller that’s deceptively simple – at its most basic it’s about a guy trying to get out of a nightclub alive – but director Jardin, along with co-writer Nicholas Saarda, make you really, really care about that guy, and then populate the rest of the cast with characters who are equally interesting, and most importantly, whose actions make that single-sentence conceit something much more complex. Although the first time we see Vincent, he’s sticking up a couple of baddies for their drugs, the stab wound he sustains immediately informs us that he’s no superhero, and it continues to affect him as he encounters more and more complications in what was meant to be a fairly routine robbery. But more than that, his very plight – to rescue his son, at all costs – humanizes him in a way that, well, if it doesn’t quite excuse his bad behavior, it at least tempers it with some degree of relatability.


Director and star stop by TIFF:

Matt Goldberg for Collider:

Frederic Jardin’s Sleepless Night is a taut, claustrophobic, and breathless chase and one of the most exciting films I’ve seen at TIFF. Once night falls in the film, Jardin never breaks the tension as we follow a desperate father wind his way through a nightclub with no way out, no elaborate plan, and no easy solution to his dilemma. Even more remarkable is how the film introduces so many players but keeps jumping around as different factions close in on our protagonist and his only options are to run, fight, hide, or all of the above. It’s usually “all of the above.”
Jardin’s direction recalls Run Lola Run and the final act of Pusher. The camera keeps moving and trying to take in all of the action. Multiple scenes take place inside the crush of the nightclub’s dance floor and it’s impressive that Jardin can keep the focus trained on Vincent and his pursuers. When an extended and brutal fight scene in a kitchen feels like a brief reprieve from the chase, you know that Jardin has nailed his tone and pacing. There are moments where Jardin goes overboard on the shaky cam but Sleepless Night makes a strong case for why we can’t completely write off this kind of cinematography.
It’s about the chase and never letting fatigue set in. Jardin makes it impossible to lose interest and he holds the film’s tension and energy without solely relying on a shaky camera. He dips and dives, ducks and weaves, takes off-kilter camera angles, sprints through locations, hops between characters, and it all works to dizzying effect. Some may skip the film because it doesn’t feature American actors and isn’t in English. That’s incredibly unfair and painfully narrow-minded. It doesn’t matter what language you speak when you can’t catch your breath.



Eric Kohn hopes the impending American remake won’t turn away viewers, for IndieWire:

A brilliant, frenetic action vehicle from French director Frédéric Jardin. There’s hardly a clean three-act structure here. Jardin avoids exposition, peppering the action with small details but jumping right into the conflict. The coke theft and subsequent kidnapping take place within minutes, and then “Sleepless Night” settles into a seedy nightclub where the majority of the action takes place. Using the nightclub as the movie’s only set is a geographical masterstroke, because every instance of running and fighting takes place with an amazing implementation of speed within close quarters. The action alternately takes place in a staircase, an elevator, a kitchen, and a very crowded dance floor.
An experience in constant forward motion requires meticulous timing that can’t possibly be replicated. For that reason, the planned remake devalues the precise appeal of “Sleepless Night”: Its constant ability to surprise with frantic physicality that defies any possible expectations. These days, even great American action movies usually adhere to formula, not only in terms of plot but also through pure technical execution. The frantic editing technique of countless Tony Scott-caliber spectacles come without rhyme or reason, and generally lack a sense of humor to boot.
By comparison, the vibrant appeal of “Sleepless Night” is predicated on the unique clarity of its direction; any attempt to recreate it would turn this enterprising project into a formula itself. But while the remake is destined to be a snooze, “Sleepless Night” will be lucky if it becomes a sleeper hit.


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