Lately it seems that I’ve been writing a lot of posts about cops and killers, and drugs and deep undercover agents. Blame it on the fact that films I really wanted to see like The Big Wedding, Oblivion, The Internship, and After Earth were all mediocre or worse. So I had to look elsewhere.
When this usually happens, I have a fall-back plan: when in doubt, look towards films about breaking the law, or law enforcement. There’s something so familiar and comforting about detectives pursuing leads or cinematic shell casings falling in slow motion; you know, like wearing a favorite sweater or tee-shirt. I’ve long since understood the real meaning of case files, full metal jackets, and I don’t necessarily find that time spent on stakeouts is tedious.
So how about one more – Sleepless Night aka Nuit Blanche. This time it is French cops, and French drug dealers. In Paris. The film opens with a heist. Two guys in a car, each wearing a balaclava to cover their faces, are going to take down a drug shipment in another vehicle. Things don’t go exactly right – a gunfight breaks out, one of the drug guys gets killed, and one other bad guys escapes. But , despite the hiccups, it is mission accomplished. They get the drugs, but of the two guys who pulled the job, one suffers a knife wound.
We later come to find out that these guys who did the heist are cops. We also come to find out that they were recognized. The lead cop, Vincent, played by Tomer Sisley, who’s middle name might be ‘Intense’, gets a call from the owner of the drugs – a night club owner called Jose Marciano. And his middle name might be ‘Sleazy’.
For simplification – translated from the French to the film’s English subtitles to a familiar from TV, street vernacular:
Jose: Yo, Vincent, this is Jose Marciano. I want my stuff back.
Vincent: I dunno what you are talking about –
Jose: I got your kid. We picked him up outside of his school. Gimme my stuff, and you get your son back…
Do you need any more of an intro?
Jose’s night club is like a multi-purpose pleasure palace. Besides being a velvet-rope disco called Le Tarmac, it has a restaurant, more than a few bars, a huge dance floor, a staircase going upstairs to more lounges, bars, and eateries. Plus a surveillance system, plus a huge kitchen, plus plenty of thugs signed on as bouncers and ‘general muscle’.
So Vincent has to get the drugs from the stash house (against his partner’s wishes), get them into the club, some how ransom his son, and hopefully they both get out alive. Doesn’t sound easy, and as it turns out, it doesn’t go down easy.
Most of the film takes place in this huge club. All in one night. One long and sleepless night. Seems like Vincent is always fighting his way through the throngs of Euro-trash party animals that fill up the club from stem to stern, or should I say every single bit of space you can find. Vincent stashes the drugs, loses the drugs, creates diversions,
has one of the wildest fight scenes you’ve ever seen in any kitchen. It’s right up there with Sean Penn and Glenn Plummer duking it out in a restaurant kitchen in Colors (1988).
He gets his kid, then loses the kid, and there are surprises around every corner – like Jose Marciano and his thugs, like other undercover cops trailing Vincent, like Vincent’s partner Manu, like the buyer of the drugs and his men, and oh yes, there’s that nasty knife wound which went untreated and is not improving with all the rough-housing Vincent is either giving or getting.
What makes this film work so well is the pacing and editing. There’s very little in the way of filler or downtime. They don’t take any time away from the action or chases, or general sense of frantic – for things to be explained to you. Vincent is always on the move. Guns come and go, as do cell phones. It is a thrill ride to be sure, or said another way – it is a thrill-a-minute.
Sisley as Vincent is very good as is Serge Riaboukine as the ‘take no prisoners’ Marciano. But the real heroes of this production are Director Frederic Jardin, who co-wrote the screenplay with Nicolas Saada, his editors Marco Cavé and Christophe Pinel, and the cinematographer, Tom Stern.
To give you an idea of the pacing of the action – I’ve included two trailers – One with English subtitles (above), and one just in French (below).
I’m rating the film at four point zero. And telling you that the French sure know how to make an action-thriller. Available for rental through Netflix or Amazon, or find the DVD for sale on the Internet.