Unknown is a rather silly little actioner, but it’s a moderately entertaining diversion from the humdrum of everyday life. It falls into the growing new subgenre called the ‘Neeson-smash-up-Euro-flick’ (I’m sure the University will one day offer an optional module where students can write lengthy essays on the parallels between the state of France’s entertainment culture and the depth of the creases on Liam Neeson’s forehead). It all started with Taken, a mind-bendingly stupid (but still rather enjoyable) violent French action movie where Liam Neeson killed everyone in Paris. Then he starred in Richard Eyre’s brooding UK thriller The Other Man which barely anyone saw and those who did wished they hadn’t. Then he returned to French cinema with a supporting role in The Next Three Days and now the starring role in Unknown. The continent just can’t get enough of him.
Here he plays a man who wonders about Berlin looking very confused (though if you read section two, paragraph four, of the ‘How to make a Neeson Euro-thriller’ handbook, you’ll see that ‘Good-naturedly Perplexed’ is his default facial expression which he is obliged to use approximately 90% of the running time of all films, unless he’s playing animated biblical lions). He has had a car accident with Diane Kruger, an illegal immigrant working as a taxi driver, and has been unconscious for four days. But when he goes to the hotel where he and his wife, January Jones, are staying she claims not to know him, and clings to the arm of another man whom she says is her husband. This is all very intriguing, and Neeson really flexes those forehead creases trying to work out why his wife is helping another man steal his identity. He is supposed to be giving a presentation at a German science summit, and desperately tries to find evidence as to his identity so as to prove that his wife is lying and he is not suffering from brain damage as a result of the car crash. But he has left the suitcase containing his passport at the airport. Silly Liam. Someone is also trying to kill him, but it’s ok – he has taxi driver Diane Kruger with him; a Bosnian kick-ass babe who’s willing to show trained assassins who’s boss.
As I said, it’s very silly, and although Neeson has all the energetic flare of a dying rhino, the film’s twists and turns keep up the pace and help make this a generally watchable blockbuster. The final twist, though ridiculously convoluted, is genuinely surprising and there are some sub-Bourne action set-pieces that will entertain undemanding viewers. It won’t change the world, but it could have been a lot worse.
Good: Enjoyably ridiculous in true Neeson style. Kruger is also rather fun.
Bad: So silly some may find it an insult to their intelligence.