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UNKNOWN

UNKNOWN-13

Unknown is a 2011 action thriller directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. It tells the story of Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson), a botanist on his way to Berlin to speak at a biotechnology conference. He and his wife Liz (January Jones) arrive in the city but accidentally leave Martin's briefcase at the airport. When he catches a cab to go back and get it, he gets into an accident that leaves him in a coma for four days, after which he cannot remember many of the events of the accident. As he starts to piece together his whereabouts, he remembers that his wife will be at the hotel. Martin goes to find her but finds that she seemingly doesn't know him and is with another man (Aidan Quinn) who also claims to be Dr. Martin Harris. Because the real (or his he?) Martin cannot provide any type of identification, he's thrown out of the hotel. After returning to the hospital, he's attacked by an unknown man but escapes. Perplexed, Martin finds a private investigator (Bruno Ganz) and the taxi driver from the crash - a girl named Gina (Diane Kruger) - to help him put all the pieces together.

Although I had planned on watching Unknown at some point in time, I didn't really have the intention of paying to see it in theaters. However, my friend Vivian and I decided to go see a movie and agreed to see whatever film was starting next, as long as it wasn't Hall Pass (because I saw it earlier today) or Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (because we're both afraid it might actually be good). Hence, we watched Unknown. I had heard about the mixed reviews going in, so I didn't really have much in terms of expectations. And sadly, it couldn't even meet the low bar I had set.

I'm going to start with the film's positives then go into the problems I had with it. For starters, there's actually a good storyline within the film; however, there's a very fine line between a "storyline" and a "screenplay," but more on that in a moment. The basic plot is effective, albeit a little slow in the early going. For the first ninety minutes, I was bored out of my mind. There wasn't much in terms of action, the story seemed rote and predictable, and all I wanted to do was fall asleep. Fortunately, the story kicks into overdrive in the last twenty to thirty minutes, actually providing a decent little twist. Sadly, it's not enough to save the film, but it was a valiant effort, I suppose.

The acting also isn't all that terrible. Jones and Kruger are easily the highlights of the film, both with their acting as well as their looks (c'mon, they're both gorgeous - get off me). But I'm sure there's few people going to see this movie without wanting to see Liam Neeson get down like he did in 2008's Taken. Don't get your hopes up, people. He has a couple of "fight" scenes, but the first was shot so shakily that I started to get dizzy, and the last is so anti-climactic that I couldn't really get into it. Oh, and then there's his acting when he's not fighting, but that goes into my biggest issue with the film...

Dialogue. Unknown has dreadfully terrible dialogue. Now, a good screenplay comprises of two facets: a good storyline or plot, and strong, realistic dialogue. Unknown has a decent - albeit flawed - storyline, but the dialogue is absolutely atrocious, especially for Neeson's character. The other characters have somewhat realistic dialogue, but something about Neeson's delivery accentuated just how terribly-written his character actually is. Well, his dialogue, at least. There's a couple of lines that had me on the verge of tears with laughter, but one towards the end of the film drove the last nail in the coffin. As the two Martin Harris's engage in battle, Neeson says, "I remember how to kill you...asshole." I know you can't know how bad the line is without actually seeing it, but something about Neeson's delivery of the line - with a deliberate pause between "you" and "asshole" - was the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak. Both Vivian and I were laughing. That's not really a good thing when you're trying to create an effective action thriller.

As much as I love Liam Neeson, I can't by any means recommend Unknown. I'm still not sure why he decided to reinvent himself as an action star, but I just hope it's not some kind of warped response to the passing of his wife, the late Natasha Richardson. I mean, this man is an Oscar winner, but now he's settling for this drivel. It's too bad, really. He has so much talent, but it doesn't come out in Unknown. Don't waste your money.

Movie Review Summary:Grade: D+
1.5 Thumbs Down