Enjoy the 'Unknown'

Article Published: Feb. 24, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Enjoy the 'Unknown'

Frank Langella and Liam Neeson star in 'Unknown.'


When did Liam Neeson become synonymous with "badass?"

Some would say 2008's surprise hit, "Taken," others would argue the 1990 cult classic, "Darkman."

Fact of the matter is he's always had a commanding screen presence. From his Oscar-nominated role in "Schlinder's List" to the highlight of George Lucas's first abysmal "Star Wars" prequel, Neeson's roles vary greatly - but never is there a bad performance.

The same goes for Neeson's latest, "Unknown," a thoroughly entertaining action thriller that grips audiences' attention and never lets go.

Despite some contrived twists, a few gaping plot holes and a healthy dose of implausibility, "Unknown" is by-the-book formula with well-written pages, bolstered with engaging performances, well-shot action and effective pacing.

Neeson stars as Dr. Martin Harris, an American professor visiting Berlin with wife Liz (January Jones, TV's "Mad Men") for a bio-tech lecture.

He's involved in car accident that sends him into a coma, waking four days later to find his world turned completely upside down. Liz completely denies knowing him, and, further, another man (Aidan Quinn, "Jonah Hex") has assumed his identity.

With all forms of identification missing and not one person believing his story, Martin begins to doubt his own identity, blaming it on head trauma from the car accident - until several attempts are made on his life.

Now convinced that something nefarious is afoot, he enlists the services of private investigator Jürgen (Bruno Ganz, "Downfall") and soon tracks down Gina (Diane Kruger, "Inglourious Basterds"), who was driving the cab in which Martin met his life-changing accident.

With their help, Martin begins unraveling a mystery that's considerably more sinister than a case of identity theft.

Ironically, "Unknown" comes with a fair share of predictability, but director Jaume Collet-Serra ("Orphan") keeps things moving at such a frantic pace that this takes the backseat (at times, literally) to the film's taut action sequences, including intense car chases, close-quartered fisticuffs and, needless to say, a race against time.

And although its characters fit the archetypical action molds, top-notch performances - especially from Neeson and Ganz - make "Unknown" stand apart from standard action fare.

"Unknown" doesn't stand too far apart from the rest, and it still feels like the product of a well-crafted cookie cutter. But it's an exceptionally good cookie, from a slightly tweaked recipe. Call it a "Fig Neeson."

"Unknown," rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sexual content, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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