I don’t know about everyone else but I for one have been loving this evolution of Liam Neeson into an ass kicking action hero which probably started around Batman Begins but began in earnest with the fantastic Taken. Being promoted as the follow up to Taken, Unknown falls a little short but it’s still a fun conspiracy thriller.
Neeson stars as Dr. Martin Harris, a botanist who travels to Berlin with his wife Liz for an important science convention. Arriving at their hotel, Martin realizes he left his briefcase at the airport and hops into a cab to go and get it. Unfortunately, the cab gets into an accident, crashes into a river and Martin is in a coma for four days. When he wakes up, he can’t remember much about the day of the accident and, worse yet, another man has seemingly assumed his identity and his wife doesn’t recognize him. Martin sets out to prove he his who says he is and what is going on.
Liam Neeson is pretty much always amazing and he’s fantastic here as well, growling out his lines and kicking ass in the couple of fights he gets into. He’s not the killing machine that he was in Taken however, since he’s just a doctor of botany, and he spends most of the movie confused as flashes of memories assault him and angrily claiming that he’s Martin Harris. Aiden Quinn plays the impostor Martin Harris and he has a great, cocky asshole thing going that makes you root for Liam Neeson to eventually kick his ass in the most brutal way possible. Frank Langella shows up for a little while as Martin’s friend Rodney and he’s quickly cornering the market on mysteriously creepy older gentlemen. The weakest link is probably January Jones, who is incredibly attactive but is pretty flat and has pretty much one facial expression the entire movie; she looks like she’s trying to think really hard about something but is just increasingly more confused.
As far as action, Unknown features a couple of really good fight scenes and one great car chase (probably one of the top 3 best car chases involving a taxi) but despite the trailers, Unknown is really a conspiracy thriller, as Neeson tries to piece together his tattered memories and increasingly mysterious circumstances like a black SUV that seems to be stalking him and a code in his favorite book that seems to be in his wife’s handwriting. Everything culminates in a pretty crazy twist that is extremely reminiscent of an early 90’s action classic but saying which would probably spoil the twist. I was actually pretty surprised by the twist as I was expecting something a little more standard going by the trailers.
Overall you could do a lot worse during this dead time at the box office than Unknown. If you adjust your expections to not expect Taken 2, you should have a pretty fun time trying to unravel the mystery of Dr. Martin Harris and Liam Neeson always makes everything he’s in better than they normally would be otherwise. If we continue to get one or two Liam Neeson action thrillers a year, I will be a very happy man.
4 out of 5