Awaken (2015)

Awaken (2015)

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"Do you like my hat? It's quite expensive."
“Do you like my hat? It’s quite expensive.”

Twitter Plot Summary: Billie Kope wakes on a tropical island and finds herself being hunted by a mysterious black ops unit.

This is an advanced review of the film, which is due for release later in 2015.

Awaken gets right into the story as Billie (Natalie Burn) awakens on a beach with no memory of how she got there. Very quickly she encounters a group of people living on the island who arrived in similar circumstances to herself, and a group of military types who are hunting her and the others for reasons that will later become apparent.

The cast is jam packed with big names, many of whom have previously made careers out of genre films. Vinnie Jones of course has previous experience with this sort of thing, having played the bad guy in WWE Films’ The Condemned, but then there are the likes of Darryl Hannah, Robert Davi and Edward Furlong to bulk up the celeb counter.

Furlong is nicely kooky as one of the kidnapped island residents, and Daz Crawford entertains as a British military man who has spent a long time on the island evading his kidnappers. The remainder of the supporting cast are a little less memorable thanks to the big names that surround them, but there are solid performances from the likes of Jason London and Michael Copon. Meanwhile erstwhile stunt co-ordinator Benny Urquidez (he’s been in loads of things) has a brief stint as Billie’s father in a series of flashbacks.

Vinnie Jones has done well for himself in the acting world, but his character, Sarge, doesn’t go in the direction you would expect and feels like a lesser presence in the story as a result. So much more could have been made of him, but then it is interesting to see a villain dealt with in this manner because it plays against your expectations. With that said, the final fistfight between Billie and Generic Bad Guy would have perhaps been improved had it been against Sarge instead.

"What do you mean there's another English tough guy in the cast?!"
“What do you mean there’s another English tough guy in the cast?!”

The story lacks energy to begin with as characters are introduced and it struggles to keep the pace up, bogging down with a significant amount of dialogue explaining the reasons for the island’s existence, but this soon picks up and the early pacing issues are quickly forgotten about as the action stakes increase. There are perhaps too few action sequences and a little too much in the way of expositional dialogue for things to really kick into a higher gear, but this is counterbalanced by decent performances and, when they take place, well structured action sequences.

At its core the idea of organ harvesting is an entertaining one, as is the Lost-style island setting in which events take place. While the early moments may be heavy in exposition, the slow reveal of why everyone is on the island is developed nicely.

By the end credits it has thankfully turned into a solid and respectable action thriller, although it would have perhaps done better to draw more focus on Billie and her sister a little earlier in the plot and ramp up the action stakes to keep the pace up. With that said, the emotional parallels drawn between Billie’s search for her missing sister and Darryl Hannah’s concern for her sick daughter are handled with an appropriate level of pathos. There is potential for a franchise to be built around the Billie Kope character as Burn has demonstrated that she’s more than capable of handling action sequences, and it’s nice for once to see a strong female character at the centre of an action narrative.

Score: 3/5

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