The unstoppable Liam Neeson headlines this very average thriller from director Nimród Antal, which turns out to be the third remake of the 2015 Spanish pic El Desconocido (yes, there’s already been the German Don’t. Get. Out!/Steig. Nicht. Aus! and the Korean Hard Hit/Balsinjehan). And screenwriter Christopher Salmanpour tweaks Alberto Marini’s original script a little to suit Liam’s grimly grumpy persona.
After The Ice Road (Liam in a truck), Cold Pursuit (Liam in a snowplow), The Commuter (Liam on a bus), Non-Stop (Liam on a plane), Battleship (Liam on a, um, battleship) and many more, this finds Liam mostly seated in a car, which must have been quite relaxing for the busy old star. He’s Matt Turner, a financier who lives in Berlin with his alienated family, and works for his bestie and the CEO of Nanite Capital, Anders Muller (Matthew Modine), with whom he discusses shifting gargantuan sums of money around.
One morning his wife Heather (Embeth Davidtz) forces him to drive their annoying kids to school, and that’s, of course, the very day that a mysterious caller rings on a planted mobile and informs him that there’s a bomb in the vehicle that will detonate if he tries to call the cops, let his children (Jack Champion as teen Zach and Lily Aspell as young Emily) out, or generally do anything untoward. He must do this distorted dude’s bidding, turning this into a variation on Speed (“There’s a bomb on the bus!”), with elements of, say, Phone Booth (the confined space and the hero finding himself framed) and lots of Neeson’s recent potboilers.
Liam does his glum, glowering schtick, as usual, but he can’t make the improbable material click or have us care much for Matt who, naturally, realises about halfway through that he’s kind of an idiot (a revelation that surely stung more in the Spanish original). Berlin looks nice though, and it’s a pleasing change to have all the chases and explosions take place there instead of Los Angeles, San Francisco or (yawn!) New York.
And whatever next? Liam in a submarine? Liam in a parachute? Liam on a golf cart, perhaps? Anything is possible, and never mind that he recently turned 71, because he’ll surely be thumping baddies around the globe well into his 80s.