I love it when we receive screeners to review, it's a lot of fun. It shows that people trust us enough to make a fair assessment of their film. However, here is the sticking point. There is a fine line when you are reviewing a film where you feel a duty of both congratulating a film for it's merits, while at the same time giving it constructive criticism. This is the crux that I have with 2014's "Awaken" a small independent film directed by Mark Atkins and starring Natalie Burn. While I do appreciate the production design and some of the performances, "Awaken" is a muddled picture where you have to take the good with the bad.
We begin the film on a mysterious island where we find Billy (Burn) waking up on a beach. Venturing into the jungle, we find out that she isn't alone. Instantly on the run, Billy meets Nick and Todd who tell her that she needs to meet Quentin, played by Robert Davi, who tells Billy the island isn't what it seems. Moving to another part of the island, we meet Rich (Jason London) and Kat (Christa Campbell) who are dabbling in organ trafficking and are awaiting the arrival of the mysterious "Mao." As the film progresses we find out more about Billy's history and how she made her way to the island as well as who "Mao" is and why she is heading to the island. I'll leave you in suspense.
So, "Awaken." I will say that much of the camerawork is fairly well done, including many of the flyover shots that highlight the island and the crystal clear water. The editing is pretty tight and the action scenes are shot fairly well, including the special effects of bones snapping and bullet hits. The acting is decent, and I especially enjoy seeing Vinnie Jones, who plays the tough-as-nails Sarge, and Daz Crawford who plays Stitch, a soldier that has already spent 44 days on the island, evading his captors. Burn also plays the role of the tough female protagonist quite well. While her character might be a little cliché, at least there is some fleshing out of the character. I'll also mention Jason London's performance as both goofy, but at the same time something right out of a 1980s film. It's hammy, but at least it's entertaining.
One of the biggest issues I have with "Awaken" is the way characters appear in the film, and are never heard from again. I understand that some of the characters are pretty extraneous, but the plot holes are a little hard ignore, especially Quentin's arc who is working with Rich and decides he is going to leave the island, and I guess he does, because after a conversation with Billy, Nick, and Stitch, he is never heard from again. I even stuck around after the end credits and I got nothing. The other plot line that ended abruptly was that of Daryl Hannah's Mao character. Similar to Quentin, Mao leaves at a moment of truth and is never heard from again. While I understand how story lines end and a character's arc can end, it's odd that it would happen without any explanation.
Overall, "Awaken" is a brisk watch that can be muddled at times, but there are also some memorable performances by Burn, Crawford, and London which will keep you interested. Atkins has a knack for framing and composes some really nice shots as well, but overall, "Awaken" is a pretty run-of-the-mill tale in the vein of TV's "Lost" and "Turistas."
For more information about "Awaken" check out the links below:
Natalie Burn Twitter