Someday, when you least expect it, you’ll hear someone singing the praises of Sleepless. Not now, but once it inevitably enters syndication rotations on TBS or FXX. That’s where this dad-thriller is destined to find glory – playing in the background during chores or between naps. In a theater, Baran bo Odar’s darkened kidnapping thriller charges forward like a billion other Taken wannabes before it. But without investment or attentive demand? You can come in-and-out of this Sleepless Night remake without being weighed down by the heavy generics that plod with sluggish commitment. That’s not meant to be a backhanded compliment, just a realistic assessment and expectation-setter.
Jamie Foxx stars as Vincent Downs, a dirty Vegas cop who gets tangled-up with the wrong underworld bosses. His partner, Sean Cass (T.I.), hears of a 25 kilo drug shipment coming in, so the two pull an off-hours smash-and-grab heist. Unfortunately, Vincent’s mask is removed during an unexpected shootout, and his identity is seen. No big deal if there’s no other survivors, right? Unfortunately not, as Vincent watches his son Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson) get abducted while they’re driving. What’s a wounded father (knife to the body) to do when his son is taken? Ignore the pain and start making your way through a casino full of bad, bad men, until your boy is safe and sound. There’s no other choice.
Unfortunately, it’s not just a straight-forward case of killing people until Tommy is found. At the same time that Vincent begins his warpath (which, at first, is just a re-delivery of stolen drugs), Michelle Monaghan’s Agent Jennifer Bryant is running an Internal Affairs case to weed out dirty cops. She tails Vincent on a hunch, discovers the drugs and immediately catches a whiff of her target’s scent. So, not only does Vincent have to fight casino owner Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney) and his goons – in addition to drug dealer Rob Novak (Scoot McNairy) and his crew – but he also has to avoid being nabbed by Bryant and her partner Agent Doug Dennison (David Harbour). Oh, and that’s if he doesn’t bleed out first.
The odds are stacked against Vincent, but Foxx’s performance doesn’t take to the scenario like a Liam Neeson or Denzel Washington once did. His voice goes all deep and raspy, but action sequences are fairly one-note except for a sparkler-topped champagne bottle that’s inventively turned into a weapon. Foxx is handcuffed by an abdominal injury for the film’s duration, except when beating the shit out of people (specifically Harbour in a woman’s spa) – then his wounds magically allow him to throw unhindered punches and kicks. You know, for pretty action effects? It’s all very watchable, but never excitable or destructively charismatic. Foxx is a steady brand on “fine” that limps through most scenes with machismo, which leaves just as much to be desired as you’d expect.
Other performances range from “meh” to “Scoot-McNairy-crazy,” with a little “Oh hey that’s Gabrielle Union!” thrown in. Dermot Mulroney sheds his typical rambler aesthetic for a greasy-haired power monster, and Octavius J. Johnson works with Foxx on a strong enough level to strike a father/son relationship – but T.I.? This poor dude has THE worst scene in Sleepless, when he meets Foxx’s badly beaten Vincent in a parking lot. There’s a confrontation (not even involving Vincent), and T.I. displays a laughable “reaction” to dangerous events. That one moment brings home the underachieving nature of everything Foxx is trying to carry, without the help of supporting names who are – at their best – going through procedural motions (even with a spunky Michelle Monaghan).
Odar does his best to manipulate Las Vegas’ seedy underbelly (City of Sin, after all), but so much of Sleepless feels like recycled, seen-it-before action genre gristle. The stuff you chew while hoping a little fatty goodness is left. Cameras sit outside windshields during in-car conversations as passing reflections detail landscapes, while indoor locales explore grey utility tunnels found in a billion other casino basements. Concept reigns supreme while execution is predictable at best, and while a few ass-beatings bring thuds and blood, genre molds are followed with conformist appeal. Dark colors, gravely voices and plenty of sabotage – just another gloomy shotgun story.
If Sleepless raises awareness for Sleepless Night (Nuit blanche), consider it a success. There’s nothing damaging or harmful to anyone’s career here, which translates into passing entertainment that blends into a billion other similar films you’ll confuse it for. “Forgettable” might be a bit harsh, but the description isn’t far from truth. Action fans, you can do better – but in comparison, what else do you have at the moment?
Sleepless is the kind of actioner that does best in cable TV syndication loops, where you can tune-in for excitement while remaining distracted otherwise.