The 2011 French/Belgian/Luxembourgian thriller Sleepless Night arrived in theaters like a Summa Cum Laude graduate from the Luc Besson School of Eurotrash Action Filmmaking — slick, lean, and relentless from the word “go.” On a story level, however, it’s not a work of astounding innovation so much as a series of sound justifications for beefy, goateed, and largely interchangeable men to go after each other. Even the title is essentially meaningless, other than to inform the viewer that the action will take place over one night and there will be no Warhol-esque scenes of people sleeping. What sets director Frédéric Jardin’s film apart is all in the execution, topped by a close-quarters brawl into a restaurant kitchen that uses every pot, utensil, and drawer in sight.
The second-rate Americanization, Sleepless, tightens up the title — though, spoiler alert, it still takes place at night — but gets flabbier in every department, adding new entanglements, expanding a couple of pivotal roles, and improvising a hectic finale when it finally runs out of plot. The murkiness gums up the works needlessly, but both the original film and the remake ultimately live or die less on what they do than how they do it. And the side-by-side comparison proves overwhelmingly unfavorable to the remake, which stages most of its big set pieces in a dark casino and an even darker parking garage below, so it’s often hard to tell who’s doing what to who and where they are in relation to each other. Without these basic nuts-and-bolts, the whole structure collapses.
The trouble begins from the very first sequence. Sleepless Night opens with an audacious daytime heist that involves squealing sports cars, heavily armed thieves and henchmen, and a generous bag of cocaine. Sleepless tries to replicate the same sequence at night, but Swiss director Baran bo Odar keeps cutting back and forth from helicopter shots of Las Vegas off the strip and bungle of action on the ground where the thieves’ identities are obscured — first by masks and then by dark — and there’s no telling what happened until the chaos is over. For Jamie Foxx, playing an undercover cop who’s snuffing out police corruption, the introduction is not exactly Orson Welles in The Third Man.
Foxx stars as Vincent Downs, an internal affairs officer who’s sacrificed his marriage to a hospital nurse (Gabrielle Union) and his relationship with his son Cortez (Markell Watson) to bring down dirty cops with drug ties, including his partner, played by T.I. Vincent goes along on the cocaine heist, but they wind up stealing cocaine from the wrong men, including a crooked casino manager (Dermot Mulroney) and a kingpin (Scoot McNairy) who runs a family drug outfit. (In fidelity to the original, Foxx, Mulroney, McNairy, and at least two henchmen all have goatees.)