There is one sure fire way to know that “Unknown” is an action film and not some sly spy documentary starring a man who looks a lot like Liam Neeson. It comes late in the movie and it’s a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it moment when Neeson, playing Dr. Martin Harris, studies his passport. His date of birth is listed as 1964. Fiction. Pure fiction and off by about twelve years. Unfortunately that’s not the only thing off about this dull excuse for a psychological drama.
The fifty-nine-year-old actor plays Dr. Harris, a biochemist who travels to Berlin with his wife Liz (the thirty-two-year-old January Jones) to attend a convention. Everything changes following a car accident. When he wakes up from a four day coma his identification and identity is gone. His wife doesn’t recognize him and worse, she’s with another man who claims to be Dr. Martin Harris. Alone in Germany he recruits an illegal Bosnian immigrant (Diane Kruger) and a private eye (Bruno Ganz) to get to the bottom of this mystery.
A couple of years ago, Neeson tore Paris apart searching for his kidnapped daughter in an enjoyably trashy Euro-thriller called “Taken.” “I’ll tear down the Eiffel Tower if I have to,” he said, veins bulging in his forehead. The trailer for his latest flick, “Unknown,” promises more of the same, but instead delivers almost two hours of Neeson shouting “I am Dr. Martin Harris!” at anyone who’ll listen as the movie limps from one dreary set piece to another. It’s endless minutes of co-incidences, Cold War references and dramatic pauses.
Neeson, as usual, is convincing, or I should say, as convincing as this script will allow him to be, but is let down by a script that has him delivering melodramatic lines like, “Do you know what it feel like to become insane?” and a co-star in January Jones who is quickly proving that Betty Draper may be a career high for her.
Despite a car chase or two “Unknown” isn’t an action film, nor is it Euro-trashy enough to be as fun as “Taken” or interesting enough to succeed as a psychological drama.