“No One Sleeps” is a highly appropriate title for Jochen Hick’s gay conspiracy thriller, for it is impossible to fall asleep while watching this tacky, convoluted no-budget film. Instead of slumber, “No One Sleeps” will guarantee either a good laugh or a bad scream, depending on your tolerance level.
“No One Sleeps” follows the misadventures of Stephan (Tom Wlaschiha), a Berlin-based doctoral student who arrives in San Francisco to confirm the theories of his late father, a discredited East German scientist, who claimed that AIDS was created by the U.S. military in the 1970s and tested on prisoners in San Quentin who were then released into the general population. Obviously ignoring well-documented findings which showed that AIDS existed as early as the 1950s and came to the US via Europe and Africa, Stephan becomes the Crusader Rabbit of the STD world and begins looking for the surviving participants of the alleged Pentagon testing by visiting the sleazy gay sex clubs of San Francisco.
Meanwhile, a serial killer is running about the city and strangling gay men who either have HIV or AIDS. The police force (actually, two lady detectives) are baffled by the killer’s modus operandi…or, to be more precise, modus operatic, as the killings seem to be connected to the Puccini opera “Turandot” (one alleged witness claimed to hear the killer humming an aria before he went in for an attack). As luck would have it, there is a production of “Turandot” playing at the local opera house. And to make matters even stranger, everyone in Stephan’s hotel (a 100% gay-populated establishment) is listening to “Turandot” all of the time (it seems the hotel’s clientele left their CDs for the original cast recording of “Mame” at home).
If this isn’t bad enough, Stephan’s research comes upon a startling fact: the men he is trying to seek out to prove his father’s theories correct are actually the same men who are being knocked off by the serial killer (remember him?). His one hope for cracking the puzzle is the bearded waiter and ex-con named Jeffrey, who literally has a love-hate relation with Stephan (he alternates between engaging in intense sex with Stephan and punching him in the nose).
Confused? You are not, by any stretch, alone. The plotline to “No One Sleeps” is so completely incomprehensible that it makes “The Big Sleep” look like “Blue’s Clues.” Reality is tossed away almost from the opening credits, when Stephan is shown jogging directly through the crime scene of the serial killer’s handiwork while the police stand around and look off into space. Stephan’s behavior is, in itself, peculiar–there is no explanation regarding why he believes the surviving members of the alleged Pentagon experiment would all be living within a taxi ride of each other and it seems a bit queer that he constantly decides to unload his hormonal urges at the sex club where the next victim or the next clue happen to turn up. The film has an excess surplus of coincidences and chance meetings which bear no resemblance to real life, and characters are dumped into the film with no rhyme or reason and are abruptly pulled off-screen before they are allowed to reveal their purpose to the plotline. Furthermore, the film’s pre-occupation with “Turandot” is so inane that the film would insist that everyone in San Francisco is either singing or listening to the Puccini music (even the taxi driver who spirits Stephan and Jeffrey to a rendezvous happens to be blaring the opera on his car radio!).
As a director, Jochen Hick keeps the film oozing along at a slack pace which totally neutralizes any sense of danger or intrigue that would make a conspiracy thriller work. The acting is uniformly atrocious, especially the lady detectives (played by Irit Levi and Kalene Parker) who seem to be reading their lines off cue-cards. At one point, Stephan expresses so much frustration that he pulls off his shirt and starts performing push-ups–an act which has no purpose except to show that actor Tom Wlaschiha has a nice torso. Even the film’s forays into mano-a-mano intercourse are hopelessly dull…you can find more homoerotic tension in a Chilly Willie cartoon than in this film.
The one saving grace to “No One Sleeps” is San Francisco, that gloriously photogenic city which gives a great performance in any film. Unfortunately, “No One Sleeps” is not a travelogue and the magical city only gets to enjoy minor supporting role status here. “No One Sleeps” did not leave its heart in San Francisco…it only checked its brains at the door.