- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

After Quentin Tarantino unleashed “Reservoir Dogs” in 1992, filmmakers tripped over

themselves copying the pulp hit.

Eventually, that wave slowed to a trickle. Now young director Simon Brand reheats the genre with a dash of the horror franchise “Saw.”

Mr. Brand’s “Unknown” drops five men into an abandoned warehouse and strips them of both identity and memory. It’s up to them to remember who they are and how they ended up together.

And, oh yes, there will be blood.

A film with such a tricked-out premise doesn’t have much room for error, and screenwriter Matthew Waynee packs plenty of narrative missteps in his first feature.

“Unknown” opens with one man (Jim Caviezel) waking up in an empty warehouse and seeing several men around him. One has been shot, another is tied to a chair, and the rest look as if they have been on the wrong side of a bar fight. Mr. Caviezel’s character can’t remember who he is or how he ended up here, and the other men, who slowly rise, say the same thing. An open cannister of gas may be to blame for their memory loss, but the quintet quickly realize at least one of them is responsible for the others’ plight.

They reluctantly team together to escape the locked-down building, as all the while fragments of memory start returning to them.

The warehouse is littered with potential tools, but they spend more time bickering than trying to escape. It seems even someone who couldn’t do much more than change a light bulb could find his way out, but when you have set up a house of cards as delicate as Mr. Waynee’s creation, you have to go to great lengths to preserve its structure.

We wouldn’t mind if we could rally for any of the men in question, but despite a stalwart cast (Barry Pepper, Jeremy Sisto, Joe Pantoliano and Greg Kinnear), “Unknown” becomes less interesting as we near the film’s resolution. It flirts with the notion of memory and how it infects our actions, but it’s not clever enough to pursue the theme. Instead, it chases its own tale, leaving us with a trite finale.

To the film’s credit, there is one minor surprise near the end, but it’s too little too late to make “Unknown” worth getting to know — or remembering.

**

WHAT: “Unknown”

RATING: NR (Violence and adult language)

CREDITS: Directed by Simon Brand. Written by Matthew Waynee. Original music by Angelo Milli.

RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes

WEB SITE: https://www.ifc films.com/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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