Reel Critics: Slick twists in Berlin give a real bang

Action-thrillers are like eggs. They're easily overcooked and often served with ham.

But in "Unknown," we have a decent story with some slick twists to give us a real bang for our buck. It also benefits from star Liam Neeson, a gifted actor with a boxer's physicality.

Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) arrives in Berlin only to suffer a horrible accident. He awakens from a coma to find that another man has assumed his identity. Even his wife (January Jones) claims not to know him and just stares at him blankly. (Turns out she keeps that facial expression throughout the film.)

It's bad enough that poor Martin must prove his identity, but now men with sinister haircuts are trying to kill him. He enlists gorgeous cab driver Gina (Diane Kruger) to help him.

"We have to get lost in the city" she announces, and dons a stylish beret and procures a cool leather jacket for a 6-feet-4, moviestar-handsome Martin.

Evidently in Berlin, nothing eludes danger quicker than the right accessories.

Derivative of everything Hollywood

Rarely has a film borrowed from so many different Hollywood formulas as "I Am Number Four."

This DreamWorks release features elements of science fiction, teenage romance, action-adventure, buddy road trip and superhero films all at once. No kidding.

Plot devices from "The Matrix," "Twilight," "Spiderman," "The Transformers" and even "Jurassic Park" are on display. The multi-tasking screenplay has handsome Alex Pettyfer as a young alien on Earth with burgeoning super powers. He's on the run from other aliens out to find and kill him at any cost.

Lovely Dianna Agron is the young human he falls in love with at their local high school. Their adventures begin when his true identity starts to leak out in the age of Facebook.

Sound familiar? Lots of rip-snorting action follows as his pursuers close in on him. Top-notch special effects help to keep the excitement factor at a high pitch.

Because it's so derivative, this movie might not do well with major critics. But it's a good production that should be a hit with its target audience. The vague ending sets up the sequel that guarantees a "Number Five" in the near future.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

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