A nameless protagonist returns from exile to save his one true love in this strange mixture of film noir and action. There may be violence, but there is also talking. A lot of talking. Combining film noir with martial arts is an idea that will sell itself (to a certain crowd). It’s a shame that The Perfect Sleep gets it wrong.
The cast of the film is strong (especially given the low budget) with the exception of the lead. Anton Pardo (who also wrote the film) chews the scenery as the nameless hero and narrator, but much of his work—especially in the latter half of the film—is too over the top. Smaller roles like the crazy killer doctor (Tony Amendola), the ultimate villain (Patrick Bauchau), and a martial artist thug played by real life badass turned B-movie star Dominic Vanderberg help breathe some life into the film. I can’t help but wonder if the main character would have been better played by Vanderberg.
If you choose to see the film, prepare to spend a lot of time sitting through Pardo’s needlessly wordy and overcomplicated script. Boiled down, the plot is actually pretty standard for an action/revenge film, but The Perfect Sleep spells out the backstory in painful, mind-numbing detail. Even when you fully grasp what’s happening—which is harder than it should be—the characters continue their overly wordy conversations until it feels like they’re beating a dead horse. Pardo’s narration doesn’t help matters; it’s filled with attempts at cleverness that fall flat. In describing one shot the camera is making, he says “It’s the kind of shot that the French would take. And I dig the French.”
The action is also a mixed bag. Vanderberg is a talented fighter, as are a number of the nameless thugs, but Pardo himself doesn’t have the chops to make the fight scenes stand out. Nonetheless, these scenes are certainly the best part of the film. There are also a couple of entertaining gunfights, including a pretty cool night-vision sniper sequence.
I really wanted to like The Perfect Sleep. As a fan of both film noir and martial arts, the concept is tailor-made for me. I think a film could combine the two elements successfully; tough guys, hard-boiled dialog, and some killer fights scenes seem like a natural fit. Unfortunately The Perfect Sleep is far too stuffed with meaningless dialog to satisfy most fans of either genre.