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Movie review: 'Dead Awake'

Nick Stahl and Rose McGowan star in Omar Naim's overstuffed romance-drama-suspense picture, with twists.

December 06, 2010|By Mark Olsen, Special to the Los Angeles Times

A poorly structured and even more poorly shot mixture of a gothic suspense thriller with a vanilla romance filmed in Des Moines, "Dead Awake" never comes close to springing to life.

The story centers on a lonely young funeral parlor attendant ( Nick Stahl) who has had his life stalled ever since a tragic crash 10 years earlier. To prove how alone he is, he puts on a memorial service to himself to show his boss that no one cares. As it turns out, he might actually be dead, or at least that's a theory put forward by a junkie ( Rose McGowan) who does come to the funeral.

Stahl is an actor with an uncanny ability to be creepy and sympathetic, intense and somehow vulnerable all at the same time. He has rarely been able to find roles that ably utilize his specific screen presence in quite the same way as in Larry Clark's disquieting "Bully." McGowan shows flashes of her charmingly skittish energy from "Nowhere," "Grindhouse" or her memorable cameo in "The Black Dahlia," but there is likewise only so much she can do.

Written by John Harrington, David Boivin and Justin Urich, the film's storytelling is simply grossly overstuffed, trying to cover too much ground as a romance, a story about grief and a flaccid suspense picture with multiple twists. Rather than finding what is worth really focusing on, any time a flash of something interesting does arise, director Omar Naim hits shuffle and moves along distractedly to another story point.

Though the performers gamely try to make the most of what little they have to work with, the film is murky to look at and unfocused in its storytelling. "Dead Awake" is a deadly snore.

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