johnlink ranks UNKNOWN (2011)

I remember seeing the preview for this at some point last year and thinking ‘Well, I knew they were going to make TAKEN clones after the success of that film. I just didn’t think Liam Neeson would stare in the clones, too.’ As it turns out, this film is less derivative of that film than the previews would suggest. Yes Liam Neeson is once again in Europe, searching for a person or persons, and he fights real well. But there are enough differences to allow this film to stand on its own, even if it is tough to avoid comparisons.

I watched UNKNOWN (2011) on 4.30.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

This is an entertaining movie, with some great action beats, some great moments of suspense, and some intense performances. The character actors in this (all of various levels of trustworthiness) heighten the movie in terms of legitimacy. January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, and (especially) Frank Langella all bring it. Liam Neeson is good, as he always is, and so the baseline for a really good movie is there.

The problem, however, is believability and cliché. This is an amnesia movie. When you make an amnesia action film you are already starting with one arm tied behind your back. Making an amnesia script is basically a way of saying ‘I’m too lazy to make this scenario any other way. What the heck, I’ll make him lose his memory.’ Also, UNKNOWN features one of those moments where the amnesic gets bumped on the head… again… just at the right moment to remember what he needs to remember. Sort of lame. But I will say that the premise for this movie, ultimately, turns some of these clichés around. I spent a lot of the film thinking ‘there is no way they are going to justify this logically,’ but ultimately they are able to. I give it credit for that.

While TAKEN was knocked for its absurd reality, that film never really bothered me. The coincidences were there, but they didn’t take me out. In UNKNOWN, enough of the action is forced as to continually remove the viewer (at least this viewer) from the proceedings. For example, Neeson wakes up in a hospital at one point to find a bad guy putting something in his IV drip to ensure he will die undetected. He doesn’t kill Neeson where he lays, as he could, instead doing this time-consuming process. That’s fine, except he’s not carefully in killing some nurses and hospital workers, so why bother with the IV drip route? And later that same bad guy has a one-inch needle containing something capable of killing in a matter of seconds. Why save this for later in the film other than as a way to make the events seem mysterious?

Later in the film, some bad guys confront Neeson in a parking lot. Grabbing him and pulling him into a van he was ABOUT TO GET INTO ON HIS OWN ACCORD ANYWAY. Why are professional bad guys assaulting a man at an airport in the open unnecessarily?

But whatever. I could give myself a brain aneurism trying to figure out logic in most suspense movies. The bottom line is that the action usually moves at a brisk enough pace as to overcome its logic pitfalls. But the pitfalls are absolutely there.

I love Liam Neeson. This isn’t one of his best, and it’s not even his best in this genre, but it is certainly a good ride, and (despite its inadequacies) I’m glad I took it.





~ by johnlink00 on May 1, 2012.

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