No need to get to know ‘Unknown’

1/5 Pitchforks

Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger

PG-13

Release date: Feb. 18, 2011

This is the time of year where generalized entertainment is spoon fed to an assumedly generalized public. If it is not a children’s film, an “I am Number Four” or “No Strings Attached” equivalent, it must at least be a decent film. But the decent films are kept for the summer months. And if the film has a chance to win an award, then you will probably see it around Thanksgiving or Christmas.

And so, with the release of “Unknown” staring Liam Neeson (“Taken”) and Diane Kruger (“Inglourious Basterds”), Hollywood has recycled its waste through a Mad Lib factory once again substituting substance and style for convenience and redundancy.

“Unknown” tells the tragic tale (again) of a man who awakens from a coma only to find that everyone he knows, wife included, has no idea who he is. From there the audience is subjected to the main character's repeated declaration that he “knows who he is” and that everyone else is wrong. Not surprisingly, our main character is of course being chased by an expensive SUV with tinted-windows, with no idea as to why.

With the reluctant help of Kruger, an illegal immigrant taxi driver, Neeson begins to put the pieces of his life back together again. Questions are answered with more questions as a former Nazi chokes on whiskey and cigarettes whilst sifting through grainy black and white photos meant to solve the mystery that Neesons’ life has become.

This riddle becomes slightly clearer when Neeson finally uncovers his true identity and life’s accomplishments. It all falls flat though after the lengthy and uninteresting journey that relative rookie director Jaume Collet-Serra (“Orphan”) takes us down.

Collet-Serra, whose background glamorously includes music videos and television commercials, should stick to what he knows best. Besides a decently shot car chase, nothing about “Unknown” is captivating or interesting. Any amount of story telling prowess that Collet-Serra attempts to muster is lost in every poorly constructed scene.

For those who frequent movie theaters year round, spotting such a travesty should be easy to do. Although, one would think the same thing would be true for a seasoned actor like Neeson, who has a lengthy and impressive resume, but hindsight is always 20-20.

Storytelling is a gift. In spite of what we have all been told, it is not just about having money, free-time or connections to good equipment. In recent years it has become increasingly obvious that the well Hollywood tapped into however long ago is drying up.

Endless remakes and dull formulaic recipes have reached the zenith of tolerance in the hearts and minds of the viewing public, one can only assume. It should only be a matter of time before Hollywood follows suit too – hopefully.

Reach the reporter at jbfortne@asu.edu


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