Unknown (**)

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This film wants to be a Hitchcock movie so bad it almost hurts.  Unknown is a mystery thriller that is too ridiculous for its own good.  A master filmmaker like the aforementioned one could have kept you from noticing all of the issues, but director Jaume Collet-Serra is not up to the task.  The movie wastes solid acting and some decent set pieces, making for an incredibly bland cinematic experience.  There’s nothing terrible about it (outside of the script, which is just not up to snuff), but it’s completely average in almost every single other way.

The flick mostly just wants to bring in the Taken crowd, and it’s successful at that, but be warned…this is a far inferior movie.

Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) is in Europe for a conference with his wife Elizabeth (January Jones).  When he forgets a piece of luggage, he goes back to get it but winds up being in a terrible car accident.  The driver Gina (Diane Kruger) saves him from death, but when he gets out of the hospital, he finds out something horrible.  Apparently his identity has been stolen by another man (Aidan Quinn) claiming to be Harris and even his wife seems not to recognize him.

This sets him off on a quest to prove that he’s the “real” Martin Harris, and he enlists the help of Gina.  Of course, nothing as it seems, and everyone will be in danger.  The film actually has you going for a bit, but the “twist” is pretty awful and the third act is very disappointing, ultimately preventing the movie from even having a chance at working for me in any notable way.

Though not doing quite the ass kicking job he did in Taken, Liam Neeson is still pretty fun to watch here.  He’s a surprisingly effective action hero, and it’s his talent that keeps the film from being a complete waste of time.  He plays it straight, and that lends a bit of weight to the proceedings.  The supporting roles are all adequate, but nothing special.  Jones is fine, but wasted…and the same goes for Kruger and Quinn.  The other supporting players include Frank Langella and Bruno Ganz.  Guess what?  They’re pretty much wasted as well.  Only Neeson manages to survive with a character worth giving a hoot about.

Serra is not an untalented director, but he wasn’t given much to work with, so it’s hard to judge him too much here.  It’s a step down from his previous work Orphan, but a definite step up from House of Wax, so he’s sort of stuck in that vague zone of passable mediocrity (he’s in good company here too).  The direction may be passable, but the screenplay is not.  Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell take the novel Out of My Head by Didier Van Cauwelaert and create an almost laughably dump movie.  It’s not parody-worthy, but there’s no attempt to make the film make even a little bit of sense.  Am I asking for too much?  Maybe, but I still judge the flick harshly on these simple grounds.

Unknown could have been a good movie…had Alfred Hitchcock actually directed it.  Since that didn’t happen, we can only gaze at this sad little action flick.  I didn’t hate it, but I sure didn’t like it much.  It’s a mediocre piece of popcorn entertainment that is only a few steps above being DVD quality.  Liam Neeson gives it his all, but it’s not nearly enough, and the film is destined to fail.  I wish the movie had actually had its identity stolen, and replaced with something a bit smarter and a lot more entertaining.  Ah, wishful thinking…

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When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of Indiewire's Criticwire Network as well as the Internet Film Critics Association.