In recent years Liam Neeson has re-imagined himself as the thinking man’s aging action hero. Taken saw him…er take his career to the next level, and he followed it up with The A-Team and now Unknown – a film, if the marketing materials are to believed is Taken 2. There’s just one thing – it’s not.
Hailing from producer Joel Silver’s Dark Castle production shingle, Unknown is a thriller, which like Taken is set in a European city, this time Berlin, and again something has been taken (sorry) from Neeson, although this time it’s not his daughter, it’s his identity. The set up is simple; Neeson is a doctor who arrives in the German capital along with his wife (the rather bland January Jones). A mix-up at the airport means that Neeson has to hotfoot it back to the arrival gate to pick up his passport, he hails a cab driven by Diane Kruger (German in real life, here playing an illegal Bosnian worker). However, a freak road accident sees the cab career off the road and into the river; Kruger pulls Neeson to safety and then promptly hot foots it from the law. Troy fans needn’t worry, she’s integral to the plot and pops up again later. After a few days Neeson wakes up in a hospital without knowing who he is or where he is. However, a quick glance at the television reminds him that he’s a doctor visiting Berlin for a conference. He makes his way back to the hotel to find Jones snuggling up to Aiden Quinn – who appears to have stolen his identity. Soon someone is out to kill Neeson, but the big man from Ballymena isn’t having any of it, and before you can say mid-life-crisis, Liam is kicking all sorts of Euro-trash ass. That’s pretty much it in a nut shell.
The main problem with Unknown is that it fails to come together in an interesting way. It’s a competently made film and director Jaume Collet-Serra knows how to shoot a visually impressive action scene under the watchful eye of Die Hard and Matrix producer Silver, but the action is few and far between, and the first major piece of action comes near the forty-five minute mark. The film is also far too long, especially if we’re comparing it to the lean ninety minute Taken. Neeson does his action thing with grit and determination, Kruger is adequate in the sidekick role while Quinn is under used, although it’s good to see that his old pal has bailed him out of DVD purgatory. However, why these two Irishmen are playing Americans is anyone’s guess.
While the Taken comparisons are merely superficial, Unknown really has more in common with the 1988 Roman Polanski thriller Frantic. That film saw Harrison Ford as an American doctor searching for his missing wife in Paris. Ford, like Neeson, was aided by a much younger female companion, and both films feature a scene with rooftop acrobatics. To sum it up, Frantic like Taken, is much more entertaining than Unknown.
Unknown features a solid selection of special features, which give a decent overview of the film and its production. There’s quite a bit of repetition, and the standalone interviews are the best. However, like the film these features are mainly superficial and will soon be forgotten once you’ve hit the eject button on your Blu-ray player.