AISLE SEAT: Neeson is the actor’s action hero

Unknown: 2.5 stars out of 5

  • Feb. 25, 2011 8:00 p.m.

At some point, I must’ve blinked and missed it, but Liam Neeson is suddenly one of the most dependable action stars in the biz: cool, mature, intense, really, really tall, and –– take that, Seagal –– a ridiculously good actor.  In fact, he’s far better than what his latest white knuckle-wannabe thriller deserves.

Now, Unknown isn’t terrible, it just isn’t fresh. 

Some moments, it feels like you’re watching The Bourne Identity (though, to be fair, you’d have to tack on a good foot-and-a-half to the hero), while at other points, you could swear that, with such a familiar vibe in pace and overall mood, this is an extension of Neeson’s surprise 2008 hit, Taken.

Never, ever, at any point, does the film feel original. Hence, it’s a pretty predictable ride. And on this particular playground, predictable isn’t good.

In Unknown, Neeson plays an American scientist en route to an international bio-tech conference in Berlin with his wife, played by January Jones (Mad Men).  

Upon arriving at his swanky hotel, Neeson discovers that he accidentally left his briefcase, passports and all, at the airport. So in a panic, without even notifying his spouse who is checking in at the front desk, he jumps into a taxi in an attempt to retrieve his belongings.  

A short-yet-eventful cab ride later, his taxi plunges into an icy river, he smacks his head during the crash, and wakes up four days later not remembering much of anything. The twist is, no one remembers him either.

Unknown is a concept –– good guy madly battling uphill to uncover what has happened to his identity –– that makes for an easy hook for audiences.  

For director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan), the task is near effortless, given the thespian might of his lead. True, Jones re-defines bland, but at least Diane Kruger, who plays a Bosnian cab driver (yep, THAT cab) makes the most of her supporting jog.

Where Unknown weaves off course is in its plot structure. The ramp-up is pretty nifty; the unfolding of the details, however, is predictable. Yikes, there’s that word again.

Positives? A peppy action suspense, this is.  Negatives? Hitchcock, it ain’t. At least Neeson’s pretty good. Again.

The feature is currently playing at Galaxy Cinemas in Vernon.