Saturday, April 29, 2017

Movie Reviews: Sleepless

directed by Baran Bo Odar
This is a crime thriller movie which despite a talented and energetic cast suffers from some languid direction and a couple lazy stereotypes. Movies with black leads are few and far between but nevertheless I'm glad I skipped this in the theaters. It wasn't a horrible film but it turned out to be nothing that I hadn't seen done better before. Regarding stereotypes how many times do we need to see the aggressive female cop with a chip on her shoulder who's eager to prove she's just as tough as the boys? How many times do we need to see an angry black woman with an attitude who thinks that she knows everything? How many times do we need to see aggressively alpha male pugnacious hillbillies going out of their way to show how insane they are? At least once more according to this film I guess. The film's hero was far from invulnerable but that didn't make me see him as relatable. I've mentioned it before in other reviews but my experience growing up all those years ago was that black parents were generally less tolerant than other parents of anything involving disrespect from their children. In my circles if a kid even looked like he was thinking about talking back that kid would have a serious problem on his hands. And from the black parents I know today it seems to me that cultural expectations of deference towards parents haven't changed all that much. In Sleepless the kid yells at and almost curses out his Dad with no repercussions. Yeah. Well maybe. But not in my neck of the woods. 

There were better ways to show the family issues. If the film had had a black writer perhaps it might have found them. Sleepless moves quickly, primarily because there's not all that much to to the story or plot. Visually it's ok. A lot of it takes place in darkness. It has the blue filter that many of these films like to use. 

Vincent Downes (Jaime Foxx) and Sean (T.I.) are Las Vegas Homicide Detectives. Working on a tip, they rob a cocaine shipment owned by casino mogul Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney in a particularly hammy role). It's no spoiler to reveal that we learn almost immediately that Vincent is actually an undercover cop trying to get evidence on corruption in the Las Vegas Police Department. Sean is loyal to Vincent and utterly corrupt. Problems arise for the duo when they learn that that particular cocaine shipment was promised to the Novak criminal organization, which in the absence of its vacationing patriarch is being run by the violent underboss, son Rob Novak (Scoot McNairy). Rob has paid for his drugs. Rob wants his drugs. And since it's strongly implied (and shown) that blood relationships won't prevent severe punishment for mistakes, Rob doesn't care who he has to hurt in order to clean this up before Daddy comes back from vacation. Even when he's in a good mood, Rob enjoys hurting people. And today he's not in a good mood. The Novaks, pere et fils, have a well deserved reputation for over the top brutality. Smart people try to avoid them. 

Internal Affairs officer Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) is coming back to duty after apparently getting her butt kicked badly during an arrest. She's resentful of the idea that she needs or wants special handling because she's a woman. She has noticed some anomalies in Vincent's and Sean's finances and behavior. She and her partner Dennison (David Harbour) think that they might have something. She's got her eye on Vincent. She can't wait to arrest him. She also wouldn't mind trying to put a hurting on a man, any man, to show everyone that she's okay. Vincent's ex-wife (Gabrielle Union) and son (Octavius J. Johnson) both have separate resentments towards Vincent which mostly involve his long unexplained absences.
All of this comes to a head, when Rubino, frightened by what Rob might do, kidnaps Vincent's son to force Vincent to return the stolen drugs. One might ask how did Rubino know Vincent was involved. That certainly is a question that Bryant doesn't bother asking, as seeing Vincent with the drugs is enough for her to assume he is dirty. Hijinks, miscommunication and mistaken identities all take place at Rubino's hotel. There were one or two decent scenes within but all in all this was nothing special. Sleepless was a remake of a French film which I might watch. 
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