Sleepless is a 2001 release from Italian director Dario Argento. This is a slow thriller or murder mystery with interesting characters and some imaginative and gruesome deaths. Fantastic direction and quality acting make up for a familiar background and this is an enjoyable film.
The movie tells the tale of a retired insomniac detective who goes back to work to solve a series of brutal murders which resemble a case he worked on 17 years earlier. The suspect in the case was known as the "Killer Dwarf" and Detective Moretti vowed to catch him even if it took him his whole life, which it looks like it will. The original killer was presumed dead but in light of the copycat murders Moretti begins to investigate and revisits some old haunts.
The story is pretty muddy in places and very cliched but the murders come thick and fast and each is more shocking than the last. The murderer is inspired by a nursery rhyme and seems to be working to some sort of twisted plan. Moretti is joined in his search for clues by Giacomo a young man who lost his mother to the "Killer Dwarf". The cast of characters grows and we are left to wonder about the killer´s identity until the final revelation.
The direction is typically excellent; Argento sets up a few really memorable scenes such as the tracking shot through the packed theatre which ends at the killer´s feet and the brutal murder with the musical instrument which is pictured above. The effects are very well done; the murders are really nasty and feature plenty of gore.
Moretti is a very likeable character and carries the film along well. Max Von Sydow plays Moretti and he really is on top form here. Dionisi is good as Giacomo and the rest of the all-Italian cast act their parts very well. The script is good in places and poor in others but the actors manage to carry the story.
This is something of a return to form for Argento, accompanied once more musically by the Goblins who collaborated on many earlier productions. There are hints of the quality of Suspiria here but this is more of a detective thriller than out and out horror. The basic premise is horribly familiar which is disappointing but the combination of the direction, special effects and acting is very effective.
Sleepless is beautifully shot, well-acted but also a bit cliched. Despite the flaws Argento knows how to scare an audience and he turns in a dark, stylish film which is worth a look.