Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aindan Quin, Bruno Ganz, Frank Langella, Olivier Schneider

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Writer(s): Oliver Kutcher, Stephen Cornwell, Didler Van Cauwelaert

Cinematography: Flavio Labiano

Original Score: John Ottman, Alexander Rudd

Running Time: 113 Mins.

Since the surprise hit Taken, which was also surprisingly good fun, Liam Neeson has set about to reinvent himself as some sort of no-nonsense action man, it worked well in the aforementioned Luc Besson produced actioner and in The A-Team last summer but with the Unknown the act is proving a little thin on the ground demonstrating that in order for us to fully embrace “Action man Neeson” the star vehicle needs to have its tongue firmly placed in it cheek, ultimately Unknown takes itself far too seriously.

Opening with an intriguing premise, couple on way to hotel conference in Berlin, husband forgets suitcase returns to airport only to survive a car crash yet suffers partial amnesia and upon finding his wife realises she no longer recognises him…is he Dr. Martin Harris? Is she really his wife? Is he simply delusional? Or is there a more sinister plot at work? Over the films running time all of these questions are posed numerous times and in theory it makes for a gripping thriller with plot twists aplenty, and twists and turns there are, one after another are revealed yet they fail to make any impact and despite the truth eluding me the “big” revelation really didn’t shock me.

Part of the problem lay in director Collet-Serra’s pedestrian approach though the script is equally to blame, pinching elements from Taken and Frantic to craft a rather dull character, just because Neeson can’t remember who he is doesn’t mean he should be boring! The saving grace would have been the action, had it been as punchy as that in Taken (as the trailers surely promise) there would have been enough respite from the meandering plot though as it is what you saw in terms of action in the trailer really does amount to little more than just that, a few minutes of a half hearted car chase or a shoe-horned in fisticuffs or two. At the expense of pace the final revelation could have afforded a more Bourne or Salt like effort (as the film slips into in its final minutes). But the plot is so concerned with trying to be clever (it’s not) that we are spared anything exciting.

We know Neeson can act, and he does at least try to inject a little life into his dull amnesic, but there are no relationships, no chemistry between others who are even more poorly served by the script. Diane Kruger, who is often great, is merely there as an obligatory helping hand is mostly rendered useless while January Jones is downright awful and thoroughly unconvincing. The bit parts are better played, Gans in particular seeming to be having some fun with his ex-Stazi spy and a late appearance by Frank Langella is at lease=t a little menacing though his character is merely a retread of the one he played in the awful The Box, minus the facial scarring.

The best thing I can say for Unknown is that the setting is used to fairly good effect, Berlin is a potentially very cinematic city and at least Collet-Serra recognises this, the typical sightseeing spots are all present and correct while a scene in a nightclub hints at something more fun and under the radar, stealthy if you will. This is only a hint however and we are soon back to the languid plot and lack of an exciting event.

VERDICT

Overall Unknown proves disappointing, given what we were promised by way of the advertising was essentially Taken Mk2, make no mistake this is a film lacking in action, thrills and a sense of fun. To succeed it needed at least two if not all of these aspects…as it is it has none, though at least Neeson does (very) briefly get to kick some ass!

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