During an early morning drug robbery, the culprits make off with a dozens of kilograms of cocaine, but one unlucky fellow, Vincent, gets tagged with a stab wound, and even worse, has his face spotted by the dealers he is stealing from. But wait a minute. Vincent and his partner are cops who have plotted a rogue, and quite illegal heist for some much needed cash. Vincent, all ready at odds with ex-wife gets in trouble when the owner of the drugs, Jose – a snappily dressed middle-man who operates out of a Paris night club the size of a small airport – kidnaps his son Thomas in exchange for Vincent returning the drugs. During a packed night, the hand-off at the club gets royally messed up as two more branches of the police, Vincent’s partner, the Turks who are trying to buy the drugs from Jose and at probably a couple of other interested parties join the chase as Vincent’s changes of getting his son back dwindle and his changes of getting beaten, shot, stabbed, busted, or simply bleeding death on the floor increase – exponentially. As far as I can tell, the entire film takes place within 24 hours, but the pacing is so relentless, that at times, it feels like a single whirlwind take.
You can probably imagine the logistical challenges to making an action driven chase film set almost completely inside a mega-sized night club: camera placement, sound continuity, controlling the tightly packed horde of extras and communicating the complicated geography of the place to the viewer. Director Frederic Jardin not only rises to the challenge, but throws laughs heartily in the glory of what is possible with this basic genre concept. He layers in the sack full of cocaine, a dozen or more mobile phones, changing clothing, and teenage hostage that change locations as often as they change ownership. The mind reels thinking just how damn well this is executed. A scuffle in the kitchen involving a baton has the hero opening drawers as he crawls underneath to block from being clubbed, later, a similar trick of opening a series doors in a corridor to block bullets. These are visually pure images shot with real panache. The press of flesh and sweat and desperation is palpable as the lines of who is who, who knows what, who is where and where are they headed gets blurry. This is all dizzy pleasure, akin to the twists and turns of Fabian Belinski’s clockwork confidence scheme in Nine Queens or Martin Brest’s buddy comedy Midnight Run. Objects and people travel at high speed through the packed main floor, pounding with French Drum and Bass (or in one great set piece, a DJ mash-up of Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust.”), into the kitchens, restaurants, corridors, duct work, strong vault, the parking lot (and various vehicles, and several the mens and ladies room. They are captured from all sorts of strange angles by cinematographer Stern who alternates effectively between both visceral and stately visual strategy.
The film juggles relationships just as effortlessly, who is on whose side and whose side they thing others are on, without losing the films focus on Vincent getting his son back. You would think with all that attention to detail would be enough, but then Jardin throws in some real heart with the arc between Vincent and Thomas, proving that the relationship between father and son can be the knottiest one of all. As action pictures go, Sleepless Night is a complete and satisfying package that will make genre aficionados and general audience alike, stand up and take notice.