Known un­knowns

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Reviews -

TICK­ING UN­EX­PLODED bomb? Check. Mys­te­ri­ous vil­lains? Check. Am­ne­sia? Check. If the moviev­erse has taught us any­thing, it’s that one should never take a hol­i­day with Liam Nee­son.

The Bal­ly­mena ac­tor’s most re­cent Euro­pean va­ca­tion, you may re­mem­ber, was Taken, Luc Bes­son’s high-oc­tane re­work­ing of a Vic­to­rian penny dread­ful. Last year Nee­son wound up in Bagh­dad as part of a tour of duty with The A Team. This sum­mer’s Hang­over 2, in which the Os­car-nom­i­nated ac­tor plays a tat­too artist, is un­likely to stick to a sen­si­ble itin­er­ary.

Even by the stan­dards of these fraught trav­el­ogues, Un­known may rep­re­sent the worst luck ever vis­ited upon any sin­gle Nee­son char­ac­ter up to and in­clud­ing Oskar Schindler.

It’s bad enough when one of the world’s big­gest ac­tion heroes wakes up in a Ber­lin hos­pi­tal un­able to re­call how he got there. It’s worse that no­body else knows enough to ask for an au­to­graph.

Con­fused and pos­si­bly im­paired, Nee­son’s Dr Martin Har­ris stag­gers back to his ho­tel, only to dis­cover that his wife (Jan­uary Jones) and col­leagues at the biotech­nol­ogy sum­mit don’t recog­nise him. He’s even more per­turbed to find an­other Dr Martin Har­ris (played by fel­low Ir­ish­man Ai­dan Quinn) has taken his place. A se­ries of chases and en­coun­ters with shad­owy as­sas­sins leads our be­fud­dled hero to seek as­sis­tance from for­mer Stasi agent Ernst Jür­gen (Bruno Ganz), a gifted old snoop with a twin­kle in his eye. Car crashes en­sue.

It’s dif­fi­cult to say which as­pect of the en­su­ing non­sense is the most out­landish. This is a thriller where Diane Kruger ef­fort­lessly heaves an un­con­scious Nee­son from a sink­ing car; where Ber­lin is pep­pered with con­ve­nient stacks of crates and buf­fers (all the bet­ter to drive into), and where the cold war seem­ingly pot­ters along at the be­hest of age­ing con­spir­a­tors.

It would be equally dif­fi­cult to deny Un­known’s worth as a big, dumb en­ter­tain­ment. Di­rec­tor Jaume Col­let-Serra, the brains be­hind the nerve-wreck­ing 2009 hor­ror-thriller Or­phan, rat­tles through the ma­te­rial with enough flair and pace to com­pen­sate for the yarn’s in­creas­ingly im­plau­si­ble tra­jec­tory.

A lengthy af­ter­life on DVD looks cer­tain.

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