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Movie Review: Unknown

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I'm intense, and I have a gun. That's about it.

By Cat Viglienzoni — February 18, 2011

Some Hollywood exec seems to have figured out that Liam Neeson is rather marketable as an action flick star. Between Taken and Unknown, Neeson seems to be racking up the I’m-a-normal-seeming-guy-who’s-really-not films. And though Neeson is one of my favorite actors, I have to say that neither of the aforementioned movies have wowed me.

The premise of Unknown is thus: He’s Martin Harris, he’s in Berlin for a biotechnology summit, and he studies plants. And he has a wife, Liz, (January Jones) who’s like 30 years younger than him and could probably, in a different movie, pass for his daughter. (As a small side rant: I wish they’d pair these guys with someone closer to their ages – there are some pretty awesome 40 and 50- year-old actresses out there who’d probably be more compelling on camera too. Jones just doesn’t have enough of a presence for this role.)

Anyhow, Mr. Harris and Mrs. Harris arrive in Berlin, and he leaves a bag at the airport and goes back for it. The cab he’s in drives off the bridge and he’s saved by the cab driver, Gina, (Diane Kruger), who skips out on the scene. It’s a bit hard to believe she-who-played-Helen-of-Troy to be a cab driver… and her apparent artistic aspiration is barely introduced and then never referred to ever again.

Four days later, Harris awakens out of his coma… only to find some other guy claiming to be Martin Harris schmoozing with his wife and living his life. He seeks out Gina and proceeds to royally mess up her life by dragging her into his quest for the truth about his identity, which he can’t really prove.  He only has a watch Liz gave him… and a memory of a weirdly colored shower sex scene that seems to be the only memory he has. And that’s about it. Meanwhile, anonymous men with guns and nasty syringes abound.

Who is Martin Harris? That’s the question of the movie, making it like the male version of Salt crossed with The Bourne Identity… but closer to the quality of Salt than Bourne. The action sequences and dialogue aren’t anything special. The inevitable twist, when it comes, is a bit ho-hum. Fortunately, Neeson can carry a mediocre film and make it watchable. (Not a truly bad one though – I present Clash of the Titans as evidence in that case. Another side note: on Neeson’s filmography I noticed that they are making a sequel to that botched mess of a movie, this one entitled Wrath of the Titans. I will not be paying any money to see that.)

One good thing about the movie: the former Stasi (that’s East German secret police) officer who Harris enlists to help him. He’s funny and smart. I wish he’d been in the film a bit more.

The verdict: Wait until it comes out on DVD. Until then… watch the Bourne movies for a better identity crisis.

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Written by Cat Viglienzoni

February 19, 2011 at 4:01 AM

Posted in Arts & Entertainment

Tagged with , ,

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