Capping off a three-night run of French films at this year's Midnight Madness was Sleepless Night (Nuit Blanche), director Frédéric Jardin's frenetic, occasionally frantic story of a bad cop making good in a packed, pulsing mob-rub nightclub.
Tomer Sisley (Largo Winch) plays Vincent, who along with a partner violently and murderously intercepts a shipment of cocaine on the streets of Paris. It's revealed that the two are in fact cops, and that Vincent was recognized during the heist after his mask was torn off. Vincent's son is kidnapped by the vicious Corsican mobster Jose (Serge Riaboukine) who demands that Vincent return the shipment of drugs to him at his club if he's ever - dun dun dunnnn - to see his son alive again.
Vincent has a plan that's immediately (without him knowing) upended by the arrival of more cops, and once everything starts to go sideways, Vincent is off and running through the club, constantly improvising, crawling through ducts and back stairwells.
It's in his geographic wandering, and in the film's deft handling of a bumper crop of plot details - such and such cellphone, such and such bag, such and such pissed off Turkish dude - that Sleepless Night shines. The club itself is a marvel of stitched-together set pieces, with action ranging from a packed dancefloor, up jammed stairs into an industrial kitchen, back-room casino, posh restaurant and the narrow passages that connect them all, as cat chases mouse and mouse turns around and chases right back.
What action there is in the film is spectacular, in particular a brutal piece of realist fight choreography that has two middle-aged dudes huffing and puffing and throwing colanders at each other in a kitchen full of gawping cooks, but the real pleasure is watching how tightly the film controls its complex plot.
The character of Vincent is less-well handled. Vincent's transformation into a hero and a father is crippled by his - and the film's itself - hilariously poor, almost sociopathic treatment of the four women in it. It'd make great fodder for a film school paper on action movie gender relations, and it's legitimately off-putting enough that it took me out of the action, an unfortunate thing as much of the rest of the film runs like a watch.