To age brutishly is Liam Neeson’s apparent career goal — the actor continues to follow the Nicolas Cage path from respected thespian to big-budget ass kicker.
In this tepid thriller from Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan), Neeson is Dr. Martin Harris. After a head conk in a Berlin car accident puts him in a coma, he awakens to discover that his wife, Elizabeth (January Jones), doesn’t know him — and is, in fact, now with another man (Aidan Quinn) who’s claiming to be Dr. Harris.
Bewilderment leads to paranoia leads to run-for-your-life desperation once Harris finds himself stalked by expressionless hit men, yet the story’s central mystery hinges on an early reaction shot from Jones that the Mad Men beauty flubs completely, thus sabotaging the subsequent hour and a half of suspenseful misdirections and red herrings.
When Jones is replaced at Neeson’s side by Diane Kruger (as the cabbie who saved his life), the film shows a tiny flicker of life, though this switch does little to alter the material’s gradual devolution into tedium.
Unknown largely cages Neeson’s aggression until its finale: a too-little, too-late gesture for a project ultimately predicated on its star’s newfound badass reputation.