'Sleepless' Will Keep Viewers Mostly Alert
By Devvon Eubanks
“To protect and serve.” Started by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1955, this is the credo of any major branch of law enforcement across the country. The police are a symbol of defense and protection of citizens’ rights and the primary upholders of the law. When civil liberties are trespassed against or there is chaos in our society, it is these enforcers that bring order by any means necessary. But what happens when the law goes…beyond the law? If by some circumstance, what if a few secretly worked under the table with the various criminals they swore to fight? And what if one of these officers got caught in the crossfire of these underhanded dealings?
Led by Swiss director Baran bo Odar, “Sleepless” follows Las Vegas policemen Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx) and Sean Cass (T.I.) who are both investigating an underground crime ring in the city. One night, the duo secretly pilfers a shipment of cocaine belonging to a major family syndicate and tries to cover up their involvement. However, Internal Affairs investigator Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) suspects something foul when she sees a suspicious Downs snooping around the crime scene that he was at only a few hours earlier. On top of this, Downs quickly gets found out and gets ambushed while his son is kidnapped by a third party dealing with the syndicate. Given an ultimatum to give up the drugs to get his son back, a restless Downs must race against the clock to deliver the merchandise or lose his son for good.
To start, the cinematography is pretty standard. Camera shots are fairly quick, and there aren’t a lot of special effects or technical optics to wow the viewer. Also, there is no movement outside of the Las Vegas setting with its vibrant lights, bustling cityscape, and smoky atmosphere. In fact, the majority of the film takes place in a singular Las Vegas casino where the third party that deals with the syndicate is located. This specific focus on a central area may bore viewers that want something more diverse. Regardless, it is in this hazy facility where all of the visceral, pulse-pounding action takes place. And when the bulk of the action does finally get underway, there is a ton of it, with intense hand-to-hand fighting, topped off with some loud gunplay, a few decent plot twists, and some tense moments. The fighting is hands down the best aspect of the film, and will keep the audience engaged until the end credits. But at its core, “Sleepless” is fairly straightforward, with a simple plot and by-the-book elements that don’t give it a lot of flash or discernable features outside of a conventional action movie.
Thankfully, the leads lend a bit more to the story. While Jamie Foxx has done an admirable job as an actor with stellar performances in 2004’s “Ray” and “Collateral,” and more recently in Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 film “Django Unchained,” Foxx’s role here is a bit dry as he just exhibits a lot of desperation and a spirit of vengeance. Vincent Downs is simply an undercover officer caught on the wrong side of a deal and seeks to make things right his way, not straying too far from a Steven Seagal type of persona. However, this man is one tough customer, getting into continuous fights throughout the film and not using standard police protocol whatsoever: throwing enemies through glass windows, using metal pipes and the surrounding environmental to hurt attackers, and just beating the hell out of anyone who stands in his way. It shows a tougher side of Foxx that is more realistic than in “Django.” Additionally, Michelle Monaghan is a good character that questions Vincent’s motives and always seems to be a step ahead. A calculating and pushy investigator, Jennifer Bryant is not one to quit so easily, even when faced with hard situations. Foxx and Monaghan make a good on-screen duo, constantly combating one another, but ultimately understanding each other as positive law enforcement officials in a corrupt system. Finally, the supporting cast give the narrative purpose and add well to the few tense situations that occur in the film. While not giving any award-winning performances, they get the job done and help the plot move along smoothly.
In the end, “Sleepless” is a fairly smooth ride with a few bumps in a linear story and not a ton of movement. But what is here will keep viewers engaged and looking forward to the next thrill ride with Vincent Downs and company. It is hard to say how Baran Odar and Riverstone Pictures will be able to top this film, but the audience will certainly not be sleeping through this one at all.