Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ten Statements About....UNKNOWN (2010)

Liam Neeson and Aiden Quinn fight over whose robot
January Jones is....
1) There are wax statues more expressive than January Jones. Every time she is on screen, she sucks the life force out of the film. And on top of that....

2) ...the obvious discrepancy in ages between the fifty-something Neeson and female leads Jones (32) and Diane Kruger (34) gives the film a very strange vibe. Granted, I suspect the discrepancy between Neeson and Jones may have been intended by writers Oliver Butcher and Steve Cornwell as a clue to what is going on, but it's never addressed at all.

3) I know Kruger was born in Germany and is fluent in the language, but I have no idea what her rationale was behind that 'moose and squirrel' Bosnian accent she attempts.

Oh, if only this guy was the protagonist of the film...
4) To my surprise, the best performance hands down is from Bruno Ganz, playing the former secret agent turned detective Neeson turns to...and his single scene with Frank Langella is the highlight of the film.

5) It's obvious to me that this film was meant to capitalize on Neeson's success in the Luc Besson-produced Taken (Hell, look at that movie poster!), and the look and pacing of the film is very reminiscent of that earlier film. What this film lacks that Taken had was a definite sense that these characters had a life and personality outside what the film requires. Now granted, the twist indicates that some of these characters don't have a life outside the film--but we should never have felt that so soon in the movie's running time.

6) And about that twist--it is a good one, a little bit of information that just changes the playing field and makes some of the weird super-heroish behavior Neeson exhibits in the first two acts. But it also colors Neeson's character in such a way that you can't accept his stated intention in the third act, especially after the savage knife fight he has with Adian Quinn.

7) There's a second twist in this plot, one involving the ultimate MacGuffin--but it's one that is so sketchily presented out of nowhere that it doesn't feel right...especially since the revelation of the second twist ties into the reason for the first twist.

8) I was really taken with Rainer Bock's performance as security chief Herr Strauss. He manages to successfully be an impediment to Neeson without once appearing to be a caricature. It's small roles like this one, and that of Clint Dyer (playing a co-worker of Kruger) and Karl Markovics (playing the doctor who treats Neeson) and Eva Lobrau (as the nurse who directs Neeson to Gant), that creates a veracity of place in the film...and that is sadly squandered.

"How does it feel/to treat me like you do..."
9) I never, ever want to see Liam Neeson in a nightclub where the DJ is blasting New Order's 'Blue Monday' again. That's just so...wrong.

10) Quinn tries the best he can with what is ultimately an incredibly thankless role as Neeson's doppelganger--although the scene of the two of them recounting facts of their colleague's life to prove that they're both the genuine article is terrific.

In short--there are some good elements here...but the film ultimately doesn't succeed due to the lackluster script, some questionable casting and a slavish desire to imitate Taken to the point where....well, we want to see Taken again.

I saw this at the Regal Atlas and...well, things are falling apart there. I suppose I should be grateful that the always dreadful movie spam Firstlook was lacking any video for the first fifteen minutes...but the lackadasial way the staff corrected the problem worries me. The trailers were a seemingly random mix including reprises of the Green Lantern and Battle: LA (which is so distinctive, with its atonal score and lack of narrative, that makes me wonder if I should watch it after all), and a horrifically bad trailer for a romcom called Something Borrowed that manages to make every single person in the film appear repulsive...but then, it stars Kate Hudson, who seems to have made her career out of appearing in romcoms that make her appear repulsive.

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