Saturday, September 5, 2015

Liam Neeson stumbles through ‘Unknown’

About the movie
Drama; Suspense, Thriller
MPAA rating:
for some intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sexual content
Running time:
Release date:
Frank Langella; Diane Kruger; Mido Hamada; Aidan Quinn; Karl Markovics; Liam Neeson; Stipe Erceg; Sebastian Koch; January Jones; Bruno Ganz
Directed by:
Jaume Collet-Serra
On the web:
Unknown Official Site

"Unknown" rips off a bunch of movies, but not the movie it wants you to think it's ripping off, which is "Taken."

"Unknown" stars Liam Neeson, who's shown in the trailer and TV ads making an angry face and promising to avenge his family - more or less like the guy he played in the sleeper hit "Taken."

That movie, though, was a bristling, sadistic revenge actioner, and "Unknown" is a plodding, unoriginal thriller, with Neeson stumbling around as the confused victim.

And he's not a CIA man, he's a botanist - Martin Harris, in Berlin with his wife (January Jones) to speak at an industry conference.

An accident intervenes, and when Neeson wakes up from a four-day coma, he finds that neither his colleagues nor his wife purport to recognize him. And an impostor (Aidan Quinn) has taken his place.

The bewildered Martin, with the help of a Dragon Tattoo-ish taxi driver (Diane Kruger) and a former operative in the East German secret police (Bruno Ganz, who's actually quite funny) tries to sort everything out.

Word to the wise - if you're a big Neeson fan, and you're determined to see this movie, I wouldn't read any reviews, because most will compare "Unknown" to the movies it emulates, and in doing so spoil its surprises.

It's enough to say that Martin and company are up against a sinister conspiracy that is brutal, well-armed and well-funded.

As is "Unknown." No movie has every trashed as many Mercedes. In a way, of course, that's acceptable to Mercedes. Lest the brand be tarnished, Neeson uses one to beat the fenders off a Volkswagen SUV, and Kruger uses hers to push a delivery van off a roof.

More money needed to be spent on the screenplay, which has many small holes. My favorite moment of nonsense - an international mercenary maniac pursues Neeson in a "Terminator"-like chase through the streets of Berlin, but gives up outside a nightclub, because he evidently can't get past the velvet rope.

There are all sorts of goofy lapses like this in the movie, and in the end a feeling of disappointment when you realize that "Unknown" is riffing on several movies you'd probably rather be watching, even though you've seen them 10 times already.

Daily News Film Critic
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