Unknown review by Matt Fuerst

Ahh the magical allure of "the reveal". Present in many art forms, literature, magic, being a movie fan, of course my favorite reveal is on film. Who doesn't like a crazy complex mystery that all unravels and makes perfect sense right before our very eyes. Well, actually, lots of people don't like your typical thriller/mystery movie. I think many a folk view themselves as so highly intellectual as to be aghast at the very taking in of a story that may at first be complex beyond their intellect. Basically, they're snobs. Or, they just don't like mystery movies. Either way, I'm a fan and always eager to find some little gem in the rough. And I was pretty excited about stumbling upon Unknown. Last week whilst managing my Netflix queue I bumbled upon Unknown. Starring Jesus Caviezel, Greg "Gay in That One Movie" Kinnear, Joey Pants, Jeremy "Hey, It's That Guy" Sisto, Barry "Sniper" Pepper and Peter "That Your Friend in the Chipper?" Stormare, 6 names I actually recognized, I was pretty darn impressed that this one had slipped by my award winning Fuersty Movie Radar Net or FMRN for short. What could go wrong?

Jean Jacket (character so named because Caviezel put a Jean Jacket on over his loin cloth for this movie) wakes up in a seemingly abandoned warehouse, filled with 4 other guys, all of whom are also unconscious. After attempts to escape prove fruitless, the warehouse is fortified far more than meets the eye, Jean Jacket takes an inventory of the warehouse. Suddenly a phone rings, JJ answers and the guy at the other end seems to know JJ, but we're not quite sure, and neither is Jean Jacket. Returning to the warehouse floor, the other 4 occupants are slowly awaking, including Broken Nose (Kinnear), Bound Man (Pantoliano), Rancher Shirt (Pepper) and Handcuffed Dude (Sisto). None know who they are or how they got there. Meanwhile, we cut to a bus station with seemingly no connection to the men in the warehouse. An attractive middle aged woman is making a cash drop, apparently due to some kidnapping plot. It doesn't take a very sharp pencil to draw the connection: someone(s) in the warehouse were kidnap victims, someone(s) in the warehouse are the kidnappers, but even they don't know who is who. That's right, I just used someones as a word. That's how I roll.

The story plays out on these two fronts, the loving wife working with the police trying to find her husband, and inside the warehouse the 5 guys go about trying to find out what is happening to them. Slowly plot details are revealed, like why they seem to have no memory. The biggest problem with a story told like this, and it's hardly limited to Unknown is thus: How to allow the characters to find out what happened, so the story can come to it's inevitable conclusion? There are a few possible ways, maybe the guys find clues hidden around their environment. Maybe a third party enters the scene and omnisciently unravels everything. Unknown uses the least preferable method, though probably the only one readily available to the story, the flashback. I can't blame them for relying on the flashbacks, for an "amnesiac locked in a cell" story it's hard to do anything else, but they do tend to incite eye rolling amongst the audience. Well, anyway, our characters selectively get their memory back at different times to move the story forward.

As expected from this genre, there are twists and turns, stabs and backstabs and the setup is explained just fine. Everything makes sense and I found it fairly satisfying. It wasn't a big "A-ha!" moment like some flicks can deliver, but I didn't break the disc in half to save anyone from ever watching the movie again. The movie is filmed competently, almost workmanlike. Nothing flashy, some filters and haze to indicate the characters stupor after waking up. I find it real curious that this movie was able to pull such a list of actors I must admit. While none of the names above are on the Tom Cruise level, that is a pretty sweet list of actors. I can't imagine the script really bowling people over, it's a neat setup and at best is decent from that point on. Both the director and the writer are pretty much first timers, so it's pretty curious to imagine how it all came together. Maybe some time on the old "be in my first movie casting couch". Nothing sexier than a desperate director, or so I've heard.

If you're a fan of the genre, or the actors, there are worse ways you can spend 100 or so minutes of your life. Unknown isn't the best at anything it tries, but it is an interesting curiosity of a movie. The best thing I can say about it is that it'll be a mighty handy movie to have in my repertoire next time I play the Kevin Bacon Game with a fellow Jackass Critic.


6 out of 10 Jackasses
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