Director: Baran bo Odar
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan
3 (out of 5) Globes
Multiplexes rarely get lean, dirty one-off thrillers these days, and when they do they’re rarely anchored by Oscar winners. So enjoy “Sleepless,” a hunk of junk whose real genre is “Movies That Will One Day Play Well on Cable When You Have a Sunday Hangover.” It moves fast and it has enough shiny distractions — overqualified actors, epic punch-outs, an almost Guinness-level number of twists for a movie that runs 90-some minutes — that it’s easy to occasionally not notice how dropdead dumb it is.
This is one of those thrillers that’s a corker once it gets going, which is to say it’s a big of a drag before it does. The hard-to-synopsize plot finds Jamie Foxx as Vincent, a deep undercover cop posing as a corrupt one. When he inadvertently steals a hefty coke shipment from a mysterious drug god, he’s rewarded with the kidnapping of his son (Octavius J. Johnson). The action soon relocates permanently to a casino, where Foxx has to put things right, all while fending off baddies (scariest among them the kingpin’s son, played by the always welcome Scoot McNairy) as well as a dogged detective (Michelle Monaghan) who thinks he’s just another dirty cop.
Once all’s in place, “Sleepless” is like a guy spinning plates on an old talk show. It has to juggle untold characters, each with their own crisscrossing motivations, each scampering about a single building with enough parts (the casino floor, a nightclub, hotel rooms, a spa joint) to keep things from getting monotonous. Director Baran bo Odar gives it a nervous, driving energy that never turns into visual chaos. What he’s doing isn’t original, but it is accomplished, and even his movie references tend to be sly, if random: a shot from “The Shining” here, some baseball pitching machine torture from Takeshi Kitano’s “Beyond Outrage” there. At one point someone suggests Vincent should surgically alter his face, which could very well be a nod to the half-POV-shot Bogie-Bacall outing “Dark Passage.”
There might be enough going on, at such a steady clip, that you may forgive it its logical trespasses. The lamest involves a character who doesn’t bother to check till later if the cocaine packets he’s been handed in fact contain cocaine. (They don’t.) “Sleepless” usually knows how to get back on its feet, and some of its key pleasures are grace notes: the sad air of importance put on by Dermot Mulroney’s casino owner, who’s gotten in the drug business only to wind up a punching bag; Monaghan trying out action as a tough woman always fending off superiors who worry she can’t handle the man’s world; awesome go-to movie dickhead David Harbour (“A Walk Among the Tombstones”) slipping in one of his best dickheady smirks. This is all beneath everyone, especially Foxx, stuck playing a single mood (frenzied), but at least there (probably) won’t be a sequel.