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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.5%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 12.5%
Pretty Bad75%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 2 user ratings

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Wide Awake (2007)
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by Jay Seaver

"Loud enough to keep the audience awake, but not worth it."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: Most of the time when I see media folks at pre-screenings or festivals with a notebook out, furiously scribbling notes as the movie plays, I tend to think it's unnecessary, and they're missing out on actually SEEING the film. About a half-hour or so into "Wide Awake", though, I was rummaging through my backpack for a notepad and a pen; otherwise, there was no way I was going to have this plot and these characters straight later.

We start in 1982 - well, we start with a bit of text describing "anesthetic awareness", a rare condition where the anesthetic given to a surgical patient doesn't take and he remains awake during the procedure but unable to make this known because the muscle relaxant has done its job. Anyway, 1982, 9-year-old Na Sang-u is having heart surgery, and he feels all of it. His doctor, Ryu Jan-hwan, does not believe his account. Jump forward twenty-five years, and Jan-hwan's son Jae-u (Kim Myeong-min) is also a surgeon. He's recently lost a patient, and the bereaved husband, Lee Myeong-suk (Kim Roe-ha), is bucking for the Korean equivalent of a restraining order, constantly calling Jae-a and his girlfriend Seo Hui-jin (Kim Yoo-mi). At the hospital, a Jae-u proposes have psychiatrist O Chi-hun (Kim Tae-woo) use "hypnotic anesthesia" on a patient resistant to the conventional kind, which irritates Jae-u's anesthesiologist best friend Jang Saek-ho (Jeong Yoo-seok) no end. Meanwhile, Gang Uk-hwan (Yoo Joon-sang) has just returned to Korea after having lived in Los Angeles for the last several years, claiming to be Ryu's old friend but also seeming pretty unstable. Oh, and someone has been killing doctors from Ryu Jan-hawn's old hospital - the ones that involved in that psychologically scarring surgery on Na Sang-u.

Got that? Lucky you! Some of that comes as flashes of newspaper headlines that go by too quickly to actually read (especially if you don't read Korean and are thus dealing with white-on-white subtitles). There's also flashbacks to Na Sang-u being a creepy, psychotic little kid that come at seemingly random intervals and a flash-forward that does not create the dread or surprise it hopes to. Characters take forever to come to the simplest explanation, and there are enough false endings that the audience gets to wonder both why the movie hasn't ended yet and to ponder whether they would have preferred the ridiculously obvious or the obviously ridiculous ending.

The script is pretty bad, although I have to wonder if Wide Awake suffers more from bad writing or bad editing. As silly as certain plot devices are, there is a basically coherent story underneath if you accept them. The pacing and the structure aggravate things considerably; this may seem a callous thing to say, but for a serial killer movie, this seems to take forever to give us a murder that really grabs us, and the character-building that's happening in its place isn't particularly interesting. What we do get are scenes that will test various types of squeamishness - if you don't like watching animals get hurt, human excrement, or medical scenes, there are going to be times you'll wish you'd looked away a few seconds earlier.

The cast is relatively blameless in all this. Kim Myeong-min and Kim Yoo-mi are perfectly acceptable as the innocent couple at the center of the story. Yoo Joon-sang maybe overdoes the intensity a bit as Gang, but that's pretty much all he's got to work with.

There's a pretty good set-up for a serial killer movie here, and moments when co-writer/director Lee Kyoo-man shows signs of knowing what to do with it. This is his first credited work on IMDB (although they're admittedly sketchier when you get outside the English-speaking world), and it's not an auspicious debut.

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originally posted: 07/09/08 16:05:49
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2008 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/31/12 Christabelle Darwin L. Vicaldo she is in dubai 5 stars
10/05/09 Carol Baker entertaining but not the greatest. Unpredictable ending. 3 stars
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  N/A (NR)
  DVD: 12-Aug-2008



Directed by
  Lee Kyoo-man

Written by
  Lee Kyoo-man
  Lee Hyeon-jin

  Kim Myeong-min
  Yoo Joon-sang
  Kim Tae-Woo
  Jeong Yoo-seok
  Kim Yoo-mi

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