Sleepless Night: Toronto Review

Sleepless Night film still - 2011
Full-tilt French crime film weaves multiple threads of cat-and-mouse through the labyrinthine innards of a big nightclub.

The French crime film stars Tomer Sisley, Joey Starr and Julien Boisselier.

Using the claustrophobic, indecipherable geography of a large nightclub as terrain for a battle in which no party keeps the upper hand for long, Frederic Jardin's gripping Sleepless Night maintains a consistently high pitch without growing monotonous. Reviews and word-of-mouth would be strong in an arthouse run, and producers are likely to attract offers for remake rights.

In a heist so sloppy they get themselves recognized, two corrupt cops steal a bag full of cocaine belonging to a gangster named Marciano (Serge Riaboukine). Quickly tracking them, Marciano kidnaps the son of one of the thieves, Vincent (Tomer Sisley), and hides him in one of many crannies of a disco called Le Tarmac.

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Managing to lose the coke inside the club before he can trade it for his son, Vincent spends the rest of a sweaty night cat-and-mousing with two different sets of drug dealers, two fellow officers -- one who's trying to bust him and another who's more corrupt than he is -- and assorted bartenders, bouncers and bystanders.

Jardin gets the movie's pulse established early on, as Vincent struggles upstream against revelers while Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" throbs on the sound system; shooting from Vincent's POV, from belly level looking straight up, and from between the bodies of oblivious dancers, the director finds plenty of ways to show how difficult it is just to get from one part of this complex to another -- and how much worse it can be when people in three other spots are racing to the same destination. (Managing all those tight camera setups is Tom Stern, Clint Eastwood's cinematographer, who obtained a stylish look using prosumer-grade video.)

In the annals of cops gone bad, Vincent is not the most effective; misjudging situations and blowing advantages repeatedly, though, he grows so desperate he becomes almost unstoppable. A vicious battle in the bar's kitchen (where the cop has already established himself as a madman) goes on so long, with everything from colanders to pull-out bread warming trays being used for defense, it threatens to become comic. But Jardin keeps the boy's peril front and center, offering not only danger but the poignant prospect of a father who becomes a failure in the eyes of his son.

Venue: Toronto International Film Festival
Production Companies: Chic Films/Paul Thiltges Distribution/Saga Film
Cast: Tomer Sisley, Joey Starr, Julien Boisselier, Laurent Stocker, Birol Ünel
Director: Frederic Jardin
Screenwriters: Frederic Jardin, Nicolas Saada
Producers: Marco Cherqui, Lauranne Bourachot, David Grumbach, Jean-Jacques Neira, Hubert Toint, Paul Thiltges
Director of photography: Tom Stern
Production designer: Hubert Pouille
Music: Nicolas Errera, DJ Yenn, Ionic Benton, Artaban
Editor: Christophe Pinel
Sales: Bac Films
No rating, 89 minutes