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Awake

click to enlarge Jessica Alba looks a little upset in this picture, huh? - Maybe its because she just read our review of Awake.
  • Jessica Alba looks a little upset in this picture, huh? Maybe its because she just read our review of Awake.

Awake (R)
Cinemark 16, Tinseltown
Awake is a sublimely awful suspense thriller made especially enjoyable by the wildly varied collection of talent taking one for the team.

Hayden Christensen plays Clayton Bereseford Jr., a young mogul in business with his mother, Lilith (Lena Olin), with whom he shares a too-close-for-comfort relationship.

Unbeknownst to Mommy, Christensen's character is engaged to marry the company assistant, Samantha (Jessica Alba), before he goes under the knife for a heart transplant that will be performed by his best friend, surgeon Jack Harper (Terrence Howard).

But any suspense found along the way is lost to the guffaw-inducing conspiracy climax that puts a punch line on this lengthy joke.

"My hands have been inside presidents" is the line that cardiologist Dr. Neyer (Arliss Howard) uses to convince Clay that he should be allowed to perform the surgery instead of Dr. Harper. But in spite of four malpractice cases pending against Jack, Clay insists on using his pal because he saved his life in the recent past.

You see, Jack and Clay take time out of their days to fish in Manhattan's East River, like some modern-day Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. It's a hokey touch of plotting by writer/director Joby Harold as if he's daring audiences to laugh at the idea. But it's only one-upped when Harold shows the two men walking into the hospital where Jack works, with fishing rods in hand.

It's as if Harold has created a new Rocky Horror, only, seemingly, without intent.

In the operating scene where Clay eventually receives his transplant, some undisclosed treachery gives cause for substitute anesthesiologist Dr. Larry Lupin (Christopher McDonald) to burst into the operating room with a flask sticking out of his pocket. Larry seems to have walked onto the wrong film set or at least the wrong profession because he never puts on rubber gloves to administer an anesthesia "cocktail" that leaves Clay silently screaming for someone to realize that he is awake beneath his paralyzed exterior.

"What the fuck!" Clay's voice-over monologue screams in a state of "anesthetic awareness," as Jack inserts the breastplate divider that exposes his beating heart. This is high humor, considering the simultaneous presence of Alba making nice with Clay's overbearing mother out in the hospital waiting room.

As all this happens, Jack gets outside his body and walks around, looking at the operating table as a tear leaks from under his taped eyes. He also uses the opportunity to take a tour of the hallways, trying to comprehend how he arrived in this state of supposedly excruciating limbo.

Unfortunately, no amount of Christensen's screaming can induce the slightest bit of fear. This feeble attempt at inciting revulsion is an example of how Awake only works if you go in with the idea that every actor, scene and line of dialogue are to be mocked.

The only saving grace is Olin. Her Lilith character dominates every scene she's in, and watching her eat up Alba before spitting out the bones is a delight.

Go see Awake fully caffeinated with a bunch of friends willing to yell back at the screen and cheer for Olin whenever she appears. Because that's the only way to enjoy this unintentionally campy piece of crap.

scene@csindy.com

  • Talent takes one for the team.

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