Jamie Foxx plays a Las Vegas undercover agent on the run from cops, drug dealers — and a movie that's all sizzle and no steak.
In “Sleepless,” a stylishly hollow crime thriller set in Las Vegas, Jamie Foxx plays an undercover cop named Vincent Downs who is up to his goatee in Big Problems. He and his partner (played by the rapper T.I.) just killed two crooks they shouldn’t have, and they also ripped off a more dangerous drug dealer than the one they thought they were working. Vincent is now carrying 25 kilos of cocaine (street value: $7 million) that could get him killed. To secure and retrieve the drugs, Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney), a natty weasel of a casino owner, has kidnapped Vincent’s 16-year-old son, Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson). But since Vincent is supposed to be delivering the kid to a high-school football game, he has to keep lying to his ex-wife (Gabrielle Union) about the son’s whereabouts (it beats saying, “Uh, sorry, he’s tied up in a kitchen closet somewhere”). Then there’s the Internal Affairs agent (Michelle Monaghan) who is sure that Vincent is a dirty cop. She’s got plans to expose him, and after he stashes the drugs over a casino men’s-room stall, she goes in there and takes them, removing his only power card.
Vincent is in deep hot water, but there’s one problem that transcends all the others: He’s stuck in a movie that’s such a terse, minimalist litany of cop-movie clichés, with a script that minces no words because it barely bothers to come up with any, that almost nothing about his situation is very enjoyable. A remake of the 2011 French/Belgian thriller “Sleepless Night (Nuit Blanche),” “Sleepless” is a propulsive thin exercise, “energetic” but tedious, the kind of January movie that Jamie Foxx should have permanently graduated from. Foxx is too good an actor — taut and committed — to phone in his performance, yet that hardly matters, since the whole movie is phoned in. It’s far from incompetent, but it’s a who-cares? thriller. And that’s likely to be reflected in an underwhelming box-office performance.
The movie is also not very plausible, in a way that cuts down on its entertainment value; watching “Sleepless,” you have to keep dimming your perceptions downward. At one point Vincent poses as a hotel worker, in blue work duds and cap, and he’s got his head down in an elevator, so that Bryant the IA investigator won’t spot him — and then, just like that, he glances up, and she spots him, and the only reason he did it is that the director, Baran bo Odar, thought it made for a cool shot.
In a hotel suite, Vincent tries to convince Bryant that he’s been working undercover (not for vice but for Internal Affairs), and she refuses to believe him. All of which makes you wonder: Does a dogged IA investigator like Bryant realize that when a fellow officer appears to be doing a drug deal, he might actually be undercover? The talented Monaghan does what she can to keep it real, but it’s a thankless role. Bryant’s pursuit of Vincent is the motor of “Sleepless,” yet you watch it thinking: Wow, she really hasn’t seen enough cop movies.
Vincent is one stressed-out enforcer, and Foxx makes him lean and mean but a bit haggard, a smooth operator at the end of his tether. He spends just about the entire movie running around with a stab wound in his abdomen, and Foxx, without overstating it, lets you feel the pain. The dusk-to-dawn time frame of “Sleepless” evokes Michael Mann’s “Collateral,” the Foxx (and Tom Cruise) thriller from 2004, but this one is staged like it’s trying to be the Vegas-underworld version of a “Bourne” film crossed with “Taken.” There are “existential” fight scenes that crash and spill all over their settings (a hotel kitchen, a spa, a casino nightclub), but mostly there’s an air of meaningless movement, of the hero improvising his way out of one samey-same predicament after another. There are no layers to any of it.
“Sleepless” does have a dirty cop, and you’ll probably figure out who it is. It also has Scoot McNairy in what may be his best performance as a crooked scuzz since “Killing Them Softly” (2012) — though in this movie he’s classier scuzz, a punk Vegas crime-family scion with android eyes who’s torn between terrorizing others and kowtowing to his big-boss dad. He keeps screaming for his drugs to be returned, and because McNairy perks up every scene he’s in, you almost start to hope that they will be.