Weekend Forecast for February 18-21

By Reagen Sulewski

February 18, 2011

You're...surprisingly strong for an old dude!

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While February box office has come a long way in ten years, studios are still reluctant to throw their top shelf projects out in the dead of winter. Instead, we get the second-tier franchises, quasi-sequels and series that are stabbing for their last gasp at relevancy. This is the big “wait for on demand” weekend.

If a movie could send another movie a Valentine, Unknown would be filling up Taken's hand-made cardboard box with mash notes and cards saying “I Choo-choo-choose you!”. There's no direct connection between the two films other than each having Liam Neeson in the lead role, but the films couldn't look more similar in tone or style without Luc Besson filing a lawsuit.

Neeson again takes on the role of a vengeful man bent on vengeful vengeance in a European setting. This time, instead of a wayward daughter, he's out for himself after his identity is stolen following a car crash. Even his wife, January Jones, can't remember him, though it's not difficult to believe that she just genuinely forgot. With the help of a local woman (Diane Kruger) he goes out to kick ass and take names – specifically, his own – uncovering the conspiracy behind his “disappearance”.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who was behind one of the great ridiculous movies of the last couple of years, Orphan, Unknown is promising that same kind of action-thriller experience as Taken, which took everyone by surprise a couple of years ago by being one of the leggiest films in some time, presumably by finding a dead spot in the release schedule. That's not quite the same situation Unknown finds itself in, with three $25 million openers just last week, though there is a dearth of action films out in the marketplace right now.


For the case of a sequel to a surprise hit, it would make a lot of sense to look at the final box office total in relation to its opening weekend and predict at least a small step up in box office. For a quasi-sequel like this, the relationship isn't so clear, and depends on how effective Unknown can be at convincing audiences that they're in for the same experience. One line in particular “I remember how to kill you”, seems calculated to evoke the “particular set of skills” monologue from Taken. Then again, Neeson's newly minted status as action hero didn't help The A-Team much at all last summer, with it barely receiving any uptick at all from Taken's opening weekend. I think we're looking at a similar thing for Unknown, which should start out with a solid $26 million over three days, and $30 million over the Presidents' Day Weekend.

One of the problems our next film, I Am Number Four, will face is the prospect of traveling well-trod ground. This is at least the third kick at the can for the “young adult” superpowers idea, following Jumper and Push, and it also has to deal with the wake of TV series like Heroes and the imminently failing No Ordinary Family and The Cape. This is a concept with a lot of baggage. The good news: at least a couple of those things were at least temporarily successful.

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