Hey! Hey, you! Go see Sleepless!
Undercover Las Vegas police detective Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx) gets in hot water when he steals too much cocaine from the wrong mob boss. Police-issue rounds are found at the scene of the heist, drawing the attention of Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan), an internal affairs agent with a chip on her shoulder. Casino owner and neophyte drug mover Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney) kidnaps Downs’ son, Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson), and demands his merchandise returned that night. Rubino is himself pressured by a much more powerful drug lord, Rob Novak (Scoot McNairy), to whom the coke is promised.
Downs brings the snow to Rubino’s club as instructed, but Bryant follows him, confiscates it and stashes it in the women’s spa. The four leads and their partners and/or goons spend the rest of the night running around the casino trying to kill each other and find the snuff.
Go see Sleepless! It’s great! It’s got action! It’s got drama! It’s got genuinely surprising plot twists! It’s intense and violent! It isn’t profiteering from a tragedy that’s not even old enough for pre-school! Regal theater chains will give you free popcorn with your ticket! What more could you possibly want?
Sleepless is absolutely flush with strong characters. They’ve all got distinctive personalities and competing motivations and they’re all under tremendous pressure and they’re all well-written and very well-acted. Downs is trying to save his son by any available means and make up for his flakiness as a parent. Bryant got beat up by a meth-head before the movie’s start, and she’s trying to bring in a corrupt cop to prove to the department she can still hack it. Rubino got ripped off on the biggest deal he ever arranged, and he’s trying to not get murdered by his business connection and also not let his club get trashed. Novak’s organization promised the coke in question, which is a relatively small amount from his perspective, as a token to secure their aggressive Canadian expansion, putting a time limit on the whole affair.
The action in this movie is textbook-worthy. It’s got the shaky-cam, edit-heavy vibe from the Bourne and MCU movies, but not to the extent of making it unintelligible. These techniques are omnipresent in modern action movies, but more often than not they get way out of control and viewers end up not able to see the action scene they’re trying so hard to frame. In Sleepless, you can see and follow everything. The camerawork adds the feverishness that it promises without taking anything away.
Bottle movies always get bonus points with me because they’re so hard to write, and Sleepless is mostly limited to Rubino’s casino. The movie uses its background masterfully to tinge its atmosphere with that signature Las Vegas sleaze.
The characters get beat to a pulp as the movie goes on, which does several things for the film. It makes the already-strong characters feel even more lifelike, and adds to the feeling of being trapped in a location with time running out. Downs was stabbed in the stomach while his son was being kidnapped, and he deals with the wound the rest of the movie. All main characters are dead or in the hospital by the movie’s end.
Also, there aren’t any superhero scenes where the characters lay waste to a ton of stormtroopers to arbitrarily show off. Every gangster represents at least a couple minutes of intense one-on-one fighting. When Downs finally starts losing, it’s not because the last boss was the toughest, it’s because that’s his fifth or sixth go of the night and he already looks like he got put in a blender.
Sleepless is an angry movie about angry people crammed into a small space and pitted against each other. It’s well-written, it’s well-shot and, seriously, free popcorn. What are you waiting for? Go!
Leopold Knopp is a journalism student at the University of North Texas. If you liked this post, you can donate to Reel Entropy here. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook and reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.