On January 1, Netflix added a ton of new films for users, including the iconic 90s teen comedy Can’t Hardly Wait, the Jonah Hill and Michael Cera-starring Superbad, and the classic 1967 film Cool Hand Luke. Yet with all these options and more coming to Netflix, the #1 film on Netflix was, Unknown, a 2011 action-thriller starring Liam Neeson.
Unknown stars Liam Neeson as a man who wakes from a coma and discovers that someone has taken his identity, yet no one believes him, including his wife. Neeson then goes on a mission to prove that he is who he is and try to figure out what is going on with his life. Unknown also stars January Jones, Diane Kruger, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, and Frank Langella.
Released only three years after Taken, Unknown came out around the time Liam Neeson was beginning to rebrand himself as an unconventional action star. Unknown came out between his roles in Clash of the Titans and The Grey, and preceded his tun in films like A Walk Among the Tombstones, Run All Night, and The Commuter. Yet even though Unknown isn’t as well-known as Taken or Clash of the Titans, the film did remarkably well, making $135 million worldwide. Yet as we can see from Twitter, Unknown was fairly unknown to people just discovering it now on Netflix.
While many are just discovering Unknown right now thanks to its debut on Netflix, the film received a relatively lukewarm reaction from critics upon its release. Unknown currently has a 55% rating on both the critics and audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, while Metacritic has the film at a 56. In his 2 out of 5 review for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw said Unknown had “a nifty final twist, but it is so joyless and heavy-handed I found it impossible to like.” Even if many critics didn’t like Unknown overall, many praised Liam Neeson’s career shift towards an aging action star.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra had previously focused primarily on horror films before Unknown, directing the 2005 House of Wax remake and 2009’s Orphan. Since Unknown, Collet-Serra had reunited with Liam Neeson several times, with 2014’s Non-Stop, 2015’s Run All Night, and 2018’s The Commuter. Collet-Serra also directed the Blake Lively-starring The Shallows from 2016 and the soccer film, Goal II: Living the Dream from 2007. Collet-Serra has already finished filming Jungle Cruise with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, and is currently slated to direct Johnson again in the DC superhero film, Black Adam.
But amongst all of the options dropping on Netflix this year, it is somewhat of a surprise that Unknown has taken off the way it has. Maybe the lack of public awareness made audiences intrigued to see this apparently forgotten Liam Neeson action film with an interesting twist. Neeson’s action roles over the last decade or so are the kind that are perfect for putting on and getting lost in, regardless of the quality. Unknown is streaming now on Netflix, if you want to give this Neeson thriller a shot.