Instantly intense, Sleepless Night immediately plunges into the action before the (cleverly reversed) title credits have left the screen. Within two minutes, tyres are squealing and there’s automatic weapons fire on the Parisian backstreets as a drugs heist gets messy. Then things get really complicated when we discover that the robbers are actually cops…
This small-scale French language film never slows the relentless opening pace, as the charismatic detective finds himself trapped between corrupt police officers, genuine investigators, his own partner in crime, his estranged wife and two gangs of really rather peeved narcotic traffickers. They want the drugs: they think he has the merchandise and they grab his young son to use as a very effective lever against him.
What follows is an hour-long, non-stop action set piece which would do justice to any big-budget Hollywood movie. An intense game of cat and mouse is crammed into the claustrophobic confines of a giant nightclub / restaurant / gang den. The protagonist gets run ragged between his various opponents in a series of ‘that’s gotta hurt’ bloody encounters, where the damage inflicted feels horribly credible. By the end, he’s a reeling, barely coherent, bleeding mess – and there’s a seriously high body count scattered about the labyrinth of corridors, back-rooms bars and parking lots.
The central performance and the punchy direction drag you into this film. By the end we were somewhat punch-drunk ourselves, bludgeoned by the beat, dazzled by the lights and suitably satisfied by the finale. It’s subtle in all the right places, too; very concisely summarising the fraught relationship between father and son, and similarly highlighting the predicament of the honest cop, undermined by enemies. There’s plenty of clever, throwaway dialogue, too (check the showdown between the two gangs for a brilliant riposte to a bigoted rant).
Superior Eurocrime – worth trying even if you don’t normally enjoy subtitled world cinema. Definitely recommended for fans of Braquo; it’s cut from much the same (tattered, bloodstained) cloth.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Sleepless Night is available on DVD and to download