Unknown

2006, Movie, NR, 90 mins

Review

UNKNOWN
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This tricky thriller owes a significant debt to RESERVOIR DOGS (1992), but holds up nicely on its own merits. Five men wake up in an industrial warehouse in the middle of nowhere. There's no way out — the doors require an electronic keypad code, and the tiny windows are far above ground level — and none of them knows who he is or how he got there; it appears that the contents of a chemical canister lying empty on the floor fogged their memories beyond immediate redemption. Two of them, the guy in the jean jacket (James Caviezel) and the one in the rancher shirt (Barry Pepper), are unhurt. Two others are wounded: One (Jeremy Sisto) is cuffed and shot and hangs from a second-story railing by his wrist, the other (Greg Kinnear) is face down on the floor, his nose freshly broken. A fifth man (Joe Pantoliano) is tied tightly to a chair. As they regain scraps of memory and find clues on and around their persons, the broad outlines of what happened emerge: Two are hostages — developer William Coles Jr. and financial advisor Richard McCain, partners in a lucrative real-estate project called Liberty Plaza West — and the other three are kidnappers. There's a dead security guard stuffed into a locker and a gun in a desk drawer; Jean Jacket carries an engraved cigarette lighter from "Erin," and takes a phone call that makes it clear that some nasty someone will be back within a matter of hours. Flashbacks gradually reveal more of the story, which involves a ransom drop by Coles' wife, Eliza (Bridget Moynahan); a sleazy crime boss dubbed Snakeskin Boots (Peter Stormare); and a police-surveillance operation gone wrong, though the cops have backup in the form of an undercover officer within the gang. The minutes tick by, and the trapped men form a series of shifting and volatile alliances as they try to figure out where they fit into this story of greed and betrayal. Screenwriter Matthew Waynee parcels out information skillfully and saves his last surprise for the very end, after all the players converge on the warehouse with predictably bloody results; commercial and music-video veteran Simon Brand shows equal assurance. There's no particular message to their joint feature-film debut, except perhaps that chance plays a significant part in the direction people's lives take, but it's an entertaining diversion whose clever structure gives pulp-crime cliches a welcome twist. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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