Unknown / Jaume Collet-Serra / 2011 / onestar

Active Ingredients: Bruno Ganz; Old-school premise
Side Effects: Acting; Boring development; Bland twist

I don’t demand that action movies make sense. No, a good mindless action flick can satisfy like no other kind of film. I do, however, demand that my mindless entertainment be entertaining. Unknown commits the cardinal sin of action: weaving a muddled web of limp plotting and failing to register a pulse. Unlike Liam Neeson’s previous thriller Taken, which had fun following its badass hero, Unknown gives us a protagonist that’s barely there. The very confused lead wonders around ineffectually and rather than do anything interesting with the character’s mystery, the film leaves him as an empty hole.

The problems with Unknown are especially troubling because it begins as a very watchable film. Director Jaume Collet-Serra does a competent job with the material and the film’s setup is simple and satisfying. But Unknown continued to plod along until I realized I was entirely disengaged and checking my watch. Veteran German actor Bruno Ganz brings some levity to the proceedings, but he seems to be the only one resolved to have some fun with the film’s ridiculous story. It’s not an offensively bad film, but if it were it would have more personality.