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MOVIE REVIEW

'Awake' seems like a bad dream

December 03, 2007|Jan Stuart | Newsday

If you have an ax to grind with someone who harbors a morbid fear of surgery, you couldn't design a better revenge than taking them to see "Awake."

If the object of your mischief also happens to be a connoisseur of sly Hitchcockian chills, so much the better. The thumbprints of the late master of suspense are nowhere to be found on this trashily in-your-face thriller, which leans heavily for its effects on intense sympathy pain, improbable reversals and the mystifying star appeal of Jessica Alba.

Hayden Christensen goes under the knife as Clay Beresford, a rich New York businessman with a weak heart and a blind spot for his adoring girlfriend Sam (Alba). Clay marries Sam over the objections of his mother (Lena Olin, turning up the smarmy-matriarch heat to a low boil). Mom also objects to his chosen surgeon for an imminent heart transplant, an affable friend named Dr. Jack Harper (Terrence Howard) with a dubious record of "two mortgages, two ulcers and two divorces."

That latter accounting is rendered by mom's sour-grapes surgeon of choice, Dr. Neyer (Arliss Howard), an exceedingly self-important twit who claims to have operated on presidents but always seems to be available whenever the script requires him. Disregarding his mother in all matters of the heart, Clay goes with his own man, and ends up with a tippling anesthesiologist who is more anesthetized during the surgery than he is.

The centerpiece of "Awake" is a heart operation with multiple birds-eye shots of Clay's beating organ, complemented by the crescendoing voice of Christensen screaming variations on "Oh, no, no, no, please God! Oh no, no, no, no! It's just pain, it's just pain!"

"Awake." MPAA rating: R for language, an intense disturbing situation, and brief drug use. Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes. In general release.

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