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Video Reviews

MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Drama, Action/Adventure
Cast
Liam Neeson as Dr. Martin Harris; Diane Kruger as Gina; January Jones as Elizabeth Harris; Aidan Quinn as Martin B; Bruno Ganz as Ernst Jürgen
Director
Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, House of Wax)
Distributor
Warner Bros.
In Theaters
February 18, 2011
On Video
June 21, 2011
Reviewer
Bob Hoose
Unknown

Unknown

Some people have a hard time remembering where they left their car keys. Dr. Martin Harris can't remember where he left his life.

It was just four days earlier that Martin was traveling with his beautiful young wife, Liz, to a biotechnology summit in Berlin. Everything was going just fine until he realized he had inadvertently left his briefcase and passport back at the airport. Oops. So while his wife checked in at the hotel, Martin grabbed a cab and rushed back to find the bag.

One horrific car crash and a four-day coma later, the good doctor wakes up with a bump on his head, a doozy of a headache and a big hole in his memory. How did he get here? Where's his wife?

When a TV news report about the scientific summit sparks a tiny flash of memory, Martin heads to the hotel to find some answers. Once he locates Liz, though, she looks at him as if he were a fish that had been out cold for the last four days instead of her husband. Not only that, another man claims to be the real Martin Harris. And he's got the ID and vacation photos to prove it—not to mention Liz on his arm.

How can this be possible? Is he really just some nutcase who came out of a coma thinking he was somebody else? Or is this a huge conspiracy to rob him of everything he's ever known?

Staggering through a foreign city, Martin enlists the help of the female cab driver from his wreck. And with the aid of a retired East German Stasi agent named Jürgen, the pieces finally start coming together.

Then the hit men show up.

Positive Elements

Unknown tosses out red herrings by the boatload. So it's not always easy to determine who's a good guy and who's not. Still, a few things are worth noting here: One character who clearly falls on the good side of the ledger is Gina, the Bosnian cab driver. When her cab crashes into the icy river, she puts her life on the line to save Martin. And against her better judgment, she also helps him when he's lost and alone. That choice puts her in the line of fire, but she refuses to turn her back on him.

When Martin later laments some of the negative things that he finds out about himself, Gina encourages him to seize the opportunity he has to help someone in a dire situation, saying, "What matters is what you do now, Martin." He subsequently defends and saves an innocent's life.

[Spoiler Warning] The ex-Stasi, Jürgen, ends up sacrificing his life to protect those whom he believes are blameless.

Spiritual Content

Jürgen says of those threatening Martin, "They're not God."

Sexual Content

Liz wears a revealing, low-cut gown, along with other cleavage-baring tops. And in several flashbacks, Martin recalls memories of making out with Liz on a bed and having sex in the shower. (We see the pair from the shoulders up.) Elsewhere, they embrace and kiss.

Gina goes braless in a tank top. Martin and Gina sit on her bed and listen awkwardly to a couple next door who are in the throes of noisy lovemaking. Martin walks by a neon-lit sex shop on the streets of Berlin.

Violent Content

Martin gets slammed around, beaten about the face and body, subdued with an electric shock, smashed through mirrors and glass furniture, and kneed in the groin. Fighting back, he pummels one thug with a crowbar and stabs another in the throat with a shard of glass.

Martin is given a sedative and hooked up to an IV bag on his doctor's orders. Later, an assassin injects something deadly into the IV bag. This same thug attempts to inject Gina with a drug and ends up having the needle jammed into his own neck. Someone purposely downs cyanide and dies in convulsions.

A car chase through downtown sends citizens screaming and leaping away as smashed vehicles careen about in traffic and through storefronts. It ends with a vehicle flipping on its roof and exploding after it's rammed by a fast-moving train.

We witness a killer detonate explosives hidden beneath his clothes. He erupts into a ball of flames. A massive explosion obliterates a victim and blows out the upper floors of a hotel. A woman has her neck snapped. A man has his eye gouged. Another is crushed between two vehicles. A van plunges 10 stories and kills the person inside it. We see dead bodies in a hallway.

Crude or Profane Language

Two s-words. God's and Jesus' names are both misused several times. God's is combined with "d‑‑n." There's a handful of uses of "h‑‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "a‑‑."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Glasses of beer and wine show up in several restaurant and club scenes. Jürgen sips a large glass of alcohol and smokes several cigarettes. Gina pours herself a drink.

Other Negative Elements

Gina steals a cab to chase thugs who've kidnapped Martin. We learn that she's an illegal immigrant.

Conclusion

At first sniff, Unknown smells like a Hitchcock-style cup of cinematic Joe with a good squirt of Jason Bourne spy creamer stirred in for good measure. But as they say, the proof is in the tasting. And this highly caffeinated thriller could have used a bit more brewing.

The mystery itself has some interesting twists and turns. But the story's dots don't always connect without a bit of forced nudging. Much worse than those storytelling flaws, though, is the fact that the amnesia-plagued protagonist barely pauses to consider the moral implications of what he learns about himself before killing his way to a deadly, um, "happy" ending.

Sure, all of that is pretty typical stuff for a PG-13 Hollywood thriller these days. But typical doesn't make this action flick's antihero mindset and knife-to-the-jugular bloodletting any more palatable. After it's all been gulped down, what we're left with is the dregs of an unsatisfying, morally muddled story.

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