Ah, I had such hopes for this movie. “Taken” is one of my favorite films of the past five years, so the idea of Liam Neeson stomping around Europe again in another leather jacket had me looking forward to another go-round. Heck, it even has an abrupt, one-word title!
This is why the marketing people at Warner Bros. make so much money, because I’m sure there were thousands and thousands just like me who went out to see this dreck based on those same warm, fuzzy “Taken” feelings. Unfortunately, the similarities end just about there.
“Unknown” is like a combination of “Taken,” “The Bourne Identity,” and “The Fugitive”—with all the bad clichés and none of the smarts and wit of those three far superior films. The story starts off quite well, with Neeson as a biologist in Berlin for a big conference who gets into a car accident and has his brain rattled (hello, Mr. Bourne). So he then tries to piece his life back together and prove he is who and what he says he is (hello, Dr. Kimble). All the while, he’s dodging shady people in dark SUVs trying to capture and/or kill him. Why on earth is this happening to him? That’s actually a very intriguing question that Neeson handles with the grace and charm you love him for.
It all starts to unravel, though, right around the time Neeson escapes his stalkers via an obligatory car chase through the streets of Berlin (not a cop car in sight!). There is no way a middle-aged scientist should be able to drive like that, and it’s the first hint all is not what it seems in “Unknown.”
Ever since “Taken” was so resoundingly embraced by conservatives for its strike-first-strike-hard-no-mercy-sir! attitude toward bad guys, I think Neeson’s been scrambling to resuscitate his liberal cred. First he said C.S. Lewis’ Narnia novels weren’t strictly Christian stories (please!). And now he stars in a movie where a poor, plucky, working-two-jobs-to-get-by illegal immigrant plays a critical heroic role, all the while an American government/big business complex tries to steal an agricultural development that would, of course, feed the poor around the globe for free. Can't have that! Give me a break. It’s all so stereotypical, unoriginal, and, worst of all, boring.
It’s no surprise that “Unknown” veers dramatically off course as soon as these ideological elements begin to make themselves clear. The third act is so stupid—with dialogue to match (this movie even makes January Jones sound terrible)—people in my screening were laughing. And not in a good way. I just rolled my eyes and got the heck out of there.
At least I’ll always have “Taken.” Maybe I’ll go watch that again to get the taste of this disaster out of my mouth.