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Way Past Midnight in Paris

Sleepless Night (2012)

Ricardo Vaz Palma/Tribeca Film Festival

A very literal marathon committed to film, “Sleepless Night” takes the well-worn cat-and-mouse chase to a pace not seen since perhaps “Run Lola Run.” Frédéric Jardin’s French thriller opens with a drug heist involving two cops gone very wrong. Whether they are crooked or in fact undercover is anyone’s guess. To ensure the speedy return of the plunder and thus smoothly clinch a massive drug deal, local mob boss Marciano (Serge Riaboukine) kidnaps police officer Vincent’s (Tomer Sisley) son, Thomas (Samy Seghir). Meanwhile Vincent’s own colleagues are also trailing him, and further complicate the matter by relocating the contraband from where Vincent originally stashed it.

The three-way chase is indeed thrilling, especially when it ventures into such disorienting places as a crowded nightclub and a hospital under renovation. The deliberate spatial confusion leads to a plethora of suspenseful close calls, but it is unclear how most characters manage to so easily navigate such vast, unfamiliar territories and always conveniently bump into each other at the most inopportune moments.

If there is one real complaint, though, it is that Mr. Jardin made no real effort to sustain the film’s moral ambiguity. Hailed along with “A Prophet” as an example of postracial French entertainment with ethnic characters as protagonists, “Sleepless Night” unfortunately lacks the complexity and social commentary supplied by the Jacques Audiard film. As the chase progresses, it becomes crystal clear that Vincent is the good guy. But wouldn’t it have been really cool if Vincent were actually corrupt and we rooted for him anyway?


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