If HBO aired a show called “Fake Detective,” the results might resemble “Sleepless,” a cop movie so utterly riddled with cliché as to verge on parody. You could pretty much play American Police Film bingo, checking off squares like “undercover badass,” “tough-as-nails Internal Affairs lady,” “bug-eyed drug kingpin,” and “hero KOs guy twice his size and then magically fits into his jumpsuit.”
Remaking the French thriller “Nuit Blanche,” screenwriter Andrea Berloff (“Blood Father,” “Straight Outta Compton”) and Swiss director Baran bo Odar transpose the action to Las Vegas, but Sin City adds little sizzle. Much of the action takes place in an unconvincing casino set, and editor Robert Rzesacz continually defuses the tension by throwing in as many helicopter shots of the Strip as there are pans of the San Francisco skyline in “The Room.”
The film tells us that Las Vegas P.D. is teeming with corrupt cops, and Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx) is seemingly one of them; we meet him and his partner Sean (T.I.) committing a masked armed robbery that leads to several goons dying in a shootout and the two officers making off with a bag containing 25 kilos of cocaine. Wouldn’t you know it, though, Vincent is actually undercover for IA, trying to figure out which high-ranking police official is pulling Sean’s strings. (We learn this thanks to a handy headshots-and-yarn bulletin board on the wall of Vincent’s apartment, the tried-and-true visual shorthand for so many movie and TV investigations.)
When Vincent gets himself and Sean assigned to the shootout crime scene to cover their tracks, he rouses the suspicions of IA detective Jennifer (Michelle Monaghan), still punchy from a recent double-cross and beating during a meth-lab investigation. She tails Vincent to a casino run by Rubino (Dermot Mulroney); turns out that cocaine was promised by the hotel owner to sweaty narcotics magnate Rob Novak (Scoot McNairy), who’s definitely not the kind of guy you want to short-change – he just cut out his cousin’s tongue for getting too chatty with the DEA.
Rubino’s men have kidnapped Vincent’s teenage son Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson, “Ray Donovan”) to get the drugs back – and just in case you missed that, either Rubino or Novak bellows, “WHERE ARE MY DRUGS?” every five minutes or so. But Jennifer has taken half of the cocaine for evidence, not knowing that Vincent is undercover, and this confluence of events should lead to some ticking-clock suspense. Instead, we get lots of people threatening each other, Vincent’s wife Dena (Gabrielle Union) doing that concerned-mom-on-the-phone thing, composer Michael Kamm’s score churning into overdrive over nothing, and more of those skyline shots.
The existence of a movie like “Sleepless” constitutes definite proof that there aren’t enough good scripts to go around; Foxx, Monaghan, Mulroney and Union (who finally gets introduced into the action in the silliest way possible) deserve much better than this. For his part, the talented McNairy tries his best to kick out the jams and infuse his two-dimensional villain with some sadistic verve, but even his big moments start to feel repetitive. (I won’t mention who plays the mystery corrupt cop, but the person chosen for the role makes that twist predictable from the get-go.)
On the plus side, Foxx engages in three OK hand-to-hand combat sequences; one is with Monaghan who, to the movie’s credit, gives as good as she gets, and another is with stuntman Tim Connolly as Rubino’s aide-de-camp. The latter fight scene is notable for looking like a clash between two in-shape guys who know what they’re doing, rather than over-the-top superheroics.
“Sleepless,” dumped into a January slot with no advance screenings, has the chutzpah to end in a way that suggests a sequel, but it’s hard to imagine audiences clamoring for another chapter of a story they’ll have forgotten well before making it out to the parking lot.