Writer: Andrea Berloff (screenplay), Frèdèric Jardin, Nicolas Saada, Olivier Douyère
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Scoot McNairy, Gabrielle Union, Octavius J. Johnson, Tim Connolly, Drew Sheer, Sala Baker, Tim Rigby, Elijah Everett, Tess Malis Kincaid, Steve Coulter, Matt Mercurio, Chan Ta Rivers, Brooke Boxberger, Chelsea Hayes, Holly Morris, Leonardo Santaiti, Stephen Shelton, Jamie Hill, Richard Nunez, Anthony Michael Lopez, Gabrielle Lexa, Ric Reitz, RJ Shearer, Brian Durkin
Production Company: FilmNation Entertainment, Open Road Films (II), Riverstone Pictures, Vertigo Entertainment
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Budget: $30,000,000 (estimated)
It’s been a few years since Jamie Foxx has been on the big screen with all his talent. His last outing was Annie (2014), which had a mixed response. It’s great to see him back, even with this being the sour season for movies, but it’s hard to imagine an Academy Award winning actor like Foxx not being worthy. Though in this case that depends on what you’re looking for. So, with what started out as a plot as simple as a 2D Dr. Seuss book, Sleepless slowly grew enough legs to make you care. Though there were moments that will make your head shake rigorously as you’re yelling at the screen.
For having low expectations, Sleepless may be the one that holds you over until the next action adventure hits. It’s every film you’ve seen before in the most generic form possible. That wouldn’t be too bad, considering the cast, but them being directed by somewhat of a new comer, Baran bo Odar (Who Am I), didn’t do much help. Within this film he had a strong grasp on how to choreograph action, but the acting was questionable. It could be the material was weak or the actors didn’t have much enthusiasm on set. I’m not sure if it was their paycheck or not, but their acting on film was about as forced as you having to go to work on a Monday morning. They didn’t want to be there, and it’s obvious, especially coming from that of T.I. Not much was expected, but he was still a distraction.
Things start to pick up once the plot gets moving. The story starts to peel layers back further and further as the men pulling all the strings begin to reveal themselves. In a battle versus good and evil, the fight is only as good as the villain. Sleepless provided several puppet masters, with each new one being more sinister than the last. You think you’ve seen their range, but shortly after find out how dangerous they really are. It becomes a guessing game on who to trust. Crooked cops are falling left and right, and even if the movie says so, you still don’t know who’s good or bad until the end. While the pacing may not be the most exhilarating, these random character shifts provide enough energy to keep you interested.
Odar is clearly an action enthusiast, with that being the highlight of the film by far. He was able to use the action in a real life setting that didn’t feel like a typical Hollywood throw down. Everyone was brawling, from the men to the women, and even a child if present. No one stood around, lending a helping hand to win the fight. There were no wasted movements, and every character used their surroundings to their advantage; which is the life boat for this entire picture. The downfall was the convenience that was sprinkled throughout the plot to just smooth things over. Anytime a complicated issue came up to challenge the film to be better, sloppy writing saved the day.
There was too much of it, making it hard to take the film seriously. There’s certain actions a character shouldn’t take, but in this case they did. Leaving evidence on voicemails, or randomly getting into a shootout not knowing who all the players are, is unforgivable. The film is only ninety minutes, but finds ways to keep the story going regardless of how much of a nuisance it is to do so. Ambitious bold characters are great, but not to the point where they try too hard to prove themselves. It’s admirable, but sometime more damage is done than productive work. There is a strong example within the film that will make you cringe, but towards the end it came together and is somewhat understandable.