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Unknown


Only if you're really 'Taken' with Liam Neeson

Rod Lott June 14th, 2011

In "Unknown," his third at-bat under the Dark Castle Entertainment banner, director Jaume Collet-Serra ("Orphan," "House of Wax") delivers his most accomplished film yet.

unknown

Still, he has room to grow, and a need for a script that's up to snuff.

Yet another entry in the bad-ass column for Liam Neeson — not a complaint, mind you — "Unknown" explores what happens when his Dr. Harris lands in Berlin for a biotech conference with his wife (January Jones), gets in a terrible car accident, and emerges from a four-day coma with everybody saying he's not the person he says he is. Even the Mrs. is all like, "I don't know you!"

With the aid of an atypically beautiful cab driver (Diane Kruger, "Inglourious Basterds"), Dr. Harris intends to get to the bottom of this identity mystery, and prove that, well, he is he. Obviously, the solution involves more than meets the eye, what with being pursued by a mad German carrying portable, deadly injectables.

A couple of slick car chases later, he has his answer. While not quite a cop-out, the corny explanation is a letdown after raising the stakes so high. In keeping with that theme, the movie as a whole is not nearly as jolt-ridden as its trailer. Although Collet-Serra executes a nifty sequence at a modern art exhibit that is tinged with Hitchcockian — or at least De Palma-esque — touches, the pacing isn’t quick enough for a running time that’s too long by a quarter. (“Orphan” also suffered from bloating.)

Neeson resorts to barking a lot, but you feel for the guy, so you’re with him all the while. Jones, however, is truly a terrible actress. She is one-note; lucky for her, it fits her character on TV’s “Mad Men,” but nowhere else. She’s so miscast that credibility teeters from the get-go, so you may cheer when she — spoiler alert! — explodes.

Collet-Serra casts the film in an aqua-green sheen that reflects the icy nature of Germany that greets Dr. Harris, so technically, “Unknown” is a known quantity. It also offers short but effective support from the likes of Frank Langella, Aidan Quinn and Bruno Ganz. Yet the thriller never hovers above average, so see it only if you’re particularly “Taken” with Neeson’s foray of late into action-hero roles, i.e. “The A-Team” and “Clash of the Titans.” One of the Blu-ray’s two bonus features knows you are. —Rod Lott


 
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