Fantastic Fest ’11: Sleepless Nights – Review


Stolen drugs lead to a long night in a nightclub

You may not think it but the French know how to make an action film or two. Heck, France is the country that gave us Luc Besson. Sleepless Nights, the latest French action flick to escape from the land of crapes and berets, is an action movie that requires one thing of its audience — don’t blink.

Frédéric Jardin directed the film; it’s original French title being Nuit blanche. Tomer Sisley stars as Vincent, a cop involved in a little moonlighting as a masked criminal. When a drug heist he is involved in goes wrong and his unmasked face is spotted by a survivor, Vincent’s son is kidnapped by a crime lord very upset about having had his product stolen by a cop. Serge Riaboukine is Marciano, the dapperly dressed and deadly kingpin who ordered the kidnapping of Vincent’s son. He’s keeping him hostage in the vast nightclub he operates out of. In order to get his kid back, Vincent needs to trade back the drugs he stole — unfortunately a confluence of events conspires to make the night a long, violent race. It seems Vincent and Marciano aren’t the only people after the drugs. Joining the fray to complicate matters are a couple of cops — one corrupt and one life-threatingly noble —  and the criminal thugs Marciano had promised the drugs to. As the handful of parties search for the drugs — stealing them from one another over and over —Vincent is left frantically trying to find a way to get his son home safely.

The film can easily be compared to Die Hard and it has been. A lot. Besides a few brief scenes at the beginning and end at the film, the film’s action is constrained to the boundaries of Marciano’s nightclub. This limit to the action’s geography and the growing abuse Vincent inflicts upon his body definitely gives the film a Die Hard—vibe. Much like on one of John McClane’s long nights, gunplay and fisticuffs break out in almost every single room of the extravagant discothèque during Vincent’s nightclub adventure.

The club’s pulsing dance beats give the film a throbbing soundtrack and an almost organic pulse — pushing the action along at a frantic pace. Frédéric Jardin and his team know how to choreograph an action scene and they know how to do it without the film being weighed down under an overabundance of action clichés. The film does not engage in polished action with slick stunts and shiny CGI. The film is dirty and its heroes and villains fight dirtier. Most importantly, though, the frenetic camerawork doesn’t obscure the film’s actions as is the case with so many Bourne imitators. The film’s camera moves fast and follows the action but it works in hand with the choreography — complimenting it instead of limiting its impact.

Sleepless Nights is getting remade for American audiences. After its high-buzz debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, Warner Brothers snatched up the remake rights to the film. Don’t miss out on watching the original movie, though, because there’s something exhilaratingly kinetic about its action that will be hard to replicate. Lightening doesn’t often strike twice and Sleepless Nights most definitely packs the power of a lightening bolt to the adrenal gland.

Director: Frédéric Jardin
Notable Cast: Tomer Sisley, Joey Starr and Julien Boisselier
Writer: Nicolas Saada

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