The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Here we are again....amnesia. Okay, at least partial amnesia. I didn't really care for 2011's Unknown, but because Liam Neeson and some other typically reliable (and cool) co-stars were in it I stuck with it. I kept waiting for it to get better, and it didn't. Maybe I'm missing something. The reviews I'm reading seem to be from a different movie.

Traveling with his wife, Elizabeth (January Jones), to Berlin, Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) is prepping for a biotechnology summit. Going back to the airport to pick up a left-behind briefcase via taxi, Harris is in a horrific accident and is only saved by the driver (Diane Kruger). He wakes up some four days later though in a hospital with a serious head injury. Freaking out that his wife must be terrified at his disappearance, Harris heads back to the hotel, but Elizabeth doesn't even recognize him. She's with a different man (Aidan Quinn) who claims to be Dr. Martin Harris. Security forcibly removes Harris, leaving the good doctor to question what the hell is going on?

Because I'm struggling coming up with a transition here, the Wikipedia (yes!) entry lists this 2011 flick as a psychological thriller, and I'm thinking....yeah, I guess so. It seems like my 2012 Phrase of the Year, but like so many failures, there's a ton of potential here. Okay, maybe not a ton, but certainly some. Amnesia in thrillers is nothing new -- cough Bourne movies cough -- but when everything around you that you know just isn't right, that's an unsettling feel to watch. Your wife doesn't recognize you?  She's now with a different man claiming to be you? That's a great jumping off point.

Unfortunately that Twilight Zone feel to the story is undone by a couple different things. The biggest obviously is the execution. At one point, Neeson and Quinn are yelling the same conversation at a man to prove they each have talked to him before. Literally, word....for...word in unison in an angry, pissed off tone. I'm assuming it was a scene meant to be dramatic, but it got a laugh out of me. And that's the problem. The developing story is overdone. Neeson is running around Berlin yelling "I'm Dr. Martin Harris!" in seemingly every scene. That uncomfortable feeling becomes unintentional comedy.

The only reason I won't completely torch this film from director Jaume Collet-Serra is the cast. Even in schlock like this, they're still worthwhile. Liam Neeson is Liam Neeson. Even when the drama is overplayed, he's still fun to watch. Kruger makes the most of a part similar to her role in National Treasure 1 and 2. She's unknowing female sidekick, the pretty lady dragged along with our hero because he needs someone to talk to. Aw shucks, that January Jones sure is purty, but she just isn't a good actress. Quinn is okay in a pretty generic part. Bruno Ganz is a real bright spot as Jurgen, a former investigator Neeson's Harris uses to look for answers. Frank Langella is here too, but it's such an obvious, telegraphed part. When Frank bleeping Langella shows up 75 minutes into a movie, it's not because he's a Good Guy. That takes away some of the fun, although Langella at 74 is still all sorts of creepy and cool.

As things continue to unravel, I was hoping the big twist, the huge revelation would at least partially save the movie. Eh, not so much. When it comes along, it works in the moment, but that's all. Once you start to think about it, the whole story goes to hell. It's the type of twist that relies on far too much coincidence. At any number of given points, all it would take is one character saying one sentence to Neeson's Harris, and everything is settled. The problem? Then we have a 45-minute long movie. Movies held together like that -- because a scene NEEDS to happen -- come across as lazy to me. Steer clear, even if Liam Neeson is cooler than you.

Unknown <---trailer (2011): * 1/2 /****

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