Movie review - Sleepless: Old good cop, bad cop routine
Jamie Foxx does himself no favours in this dull and clichéd thriller
Back in the 1980s and 90s, Hollywood used to release cop thrillers every other week, but thanks to changing mores and the soul-sucking omnipresence of the superhero genre, we don't get too many nowadays. Films like LA Confidential, Training Day and Heat prove just how enthralling the genre can be at its best, but Sleepless reminds us that most of these films are mundane affairs that trade shamelessly in stock characters and stereotypes. And if cliché is the lingua franca of the cop thriller, the makers of this film speak it fluently.
It all starts promisingly enough. When two cars skid to a halt after a high-speed chase through Las Vegas, two masked men jump out and steal a large suitcase filled with cocaine. A shoot-out ensues, and several criminals die, but the masked attackers escape with a haul worth $8m. And when an internal affairs detective called Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) arrives on the scene, she's perplexed to discover that some of the bullets fired came from government-issued weapons.
We then find out that the robbers, Vincent (Jamie Foxx) and Sean (TI), are police officers, who are up to their necks in dodgy deals and have just stolen from the wrong criminal. The cocaine belonged to a well-heeled casino owner called Rubino (Dermot Mulroney) who was in the process of selling it to Novak (Scoot McNairy), a notoriously intemperate drug dealer who's prone to resort to all sorts of unpleasantness at the drop of a hat. To illustrate this point, we're given an entirely gratuitous torture scene in which Novak removes the tongue of a cousin he suspects of being a police informer.
Novak is furious with Rubino, who'll have to recover the stash if he wishes to live: so he kidnaps Vincent's teenage son, demanding the coke as ransom. Vincent's about to oblige when Bryant and her partner Dennison (David Harbour) track him down at Rubino's casino, leading to a tense stand-off involving many interested parties.
You, though, may not be quite so interested. Directed by Baran bo Odar, and based on a 2011 French movie called Nuit Blanche, Sleepless commits the cardinal sin for a thriller - it's rather dull. It's also predictable: plot twists are glaringly signposted, and when Vincent is revealed to be a poor father, you just know it's a ruse to throw you off the scent. His character's true nature is given away by the film's promotional tag line, which I advise you not to read if you wish to be in any way surprised, and David Harbour is so good at playing men of low character that he's been described as a walking plot-spoiler.
There are some interesting enough bits of business involving the stash of coke, which Vincent hides in the roof of a toilet at the casino in order to retain his leverage, only to discover that Bryant has found it, and is now convinced he's a dirty cop. Whatever about his guilt or innocence, he's a cop with very poor diction. Foxx mumbles and mutters his way through every scene, glaring defiantly at all and sundry - but making little or no sense.
Monaghan does her best in a one-dimensional role, the talents of Gabrielle Union are entirely wasted in the throwaway part of Vincent's estranged but resourceful wife, and Scoot McNairy's wildly staring psychopath is not terribly scary. And while one could hardly pick a more hackneyed backdrop than Las Vegas, Sleepless should have made better use of it.
Foxx is something of an enigma: when he emerged from nowhere in 2004 to win the Best Actor Oscar for Ray, he looked set for a stellar career. Instead, he's appeared mainly in very ordinary films (Miami Vice, The Kingdom, The Soloist), and treaded water instead of challenging himself. When he rebounded spectacularly in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained a few years back, one thought he would capitalise, but instead we've had more of the same.
Maybe he's hard to cast, or maybe he just picks scripts badly. He shouldn't have picked this one.
Films coming soon...
Alien: Covenant (Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride); Miss Sloane (Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, John Lithgow, Sam Waterston, Gugu Mbatha-Raw); Frantz (Pierre Niney, Paula Beer, Ernst Stötzner, Johann von Bülow).