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Reviewed by: Mike Gallien
February 18, 2011
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Imagine waking from a four-day coma only to discover that not only is your wife not looking for you, but also that somebody has taken your place and others inexplicably want you dead. That’s the dilemma facing Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) in the new psychological action thriller from director Jaume Collet-Serra (ORPHAN). Neeson, one of my favorites I must admit, does his best to make some sense of the bizarre turn of events facing Dr. Harris. The problem is that Collet-Serra seems to be too interested in further muddling the film with nonsensical chase scenes and poorly choreographed fight sequences that only serve to confuse the viewer, one actually evoking inappropriate laughter from the preview audience.

The screenplay adaptation by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Mark Cornwell does Didier Van Cauwelaert’s novel, OUT OF MY HEAD, justice as the plot has all of the appropriate twists and turns, with the standard surprises along the way. The material is not the problem; rather it seems to be the delivery from Collet-Serra.

Neeson is believable as the tortured and confused Harris and Diane Kruger (INGLORIOUS BASTARDS) does a nice job as Gina, Harris’ cab driver/lifesaver/friend. Bruno Ganz (THE READER) is fun as a former Stasi spy who tries to help Harris figure out what has happened to his formerly ideal, but uneventful professorial life. Aidan Quinn and Frank Langella appear as two of the bad guys, but provide little more than name recognition for the marketing department. January Jones (MAD MEN) is nice to look at on film, but her character Elizabeth Harris is confusing, confused and not compelling.

For me, the film was interesting because of the plot twists, but the action sequences were distracting at best, bogging the whole film down. I like fights, chase scenes, and explosions as much as the next guy, but the action in Unknown is just a mess. The only saving grace is Neeson’s performance and a serviceable plot.

GRADE: C+

Mike Gallien is a retired educator, frustrated writer and film lover.

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