A couple of years ago, Liam Neeson reintroduced North American audiences to the joys of the Euro-trashy-thriller. In Taken he played a retired undercover agent who rips Paris apart searching for his kidnapped daughter. “I’ll tear down the Eiffel Tower if I have to,” he said.
The French tourist attraction was left standing, but he laid waste to the rest of the city in the movie’s wild action scenes.
Neeson is back this weekend in Unknown, another Euro-thriller that sees him cut a swath through Berlin while trying to get to the bottom of a deadly mystery involving identity theft, shadowy assassins and, of course, European carnage.
Euro-thrillers are characterized not just by their exotic locations, beautiful stars and international intrigue but by an attitude. They are about glamour, style and over-the-top stories.
A catchy title is also important. The 1967 Euro-heist flick 28 Minutes for 3 Million Dollars wasn’t much of a movie, but the name was a grabber. Ditto Agent for H.AR.M., an outlandish Eurospy movie with a bad guy who bears an uncanny resemblance to Pee Wee Herman. More fun is an Italian sci-fi comedy caper called Kiss the Girls and Make them Die starring Mike Connors (later famous as detective Mannix on TV) in a James Bond rip-off that’s almost as good as the real thing.
Then, what’s a great Euro movie without a cool score? Movies like 1967’s spy parody Kiss Kiss... Bang Bang featured a playful, loungetastic Bruno Nicolai score that sets the scene perfectly, and Ann Margaret’s songs in Appointment in Beirut can only be described as kitschy-cool.
The next ingredient is a wild premise. It doesn’t get much stranger than Bandaged, a German film about a deranged man who transplants the face of his late wife on his deformed daughter. Or how about LSD Inferno? In it the bad guy—an inventively named Mister X—wants to dose everyone in the world with acid.
After that, all that’s needed is a great villain—like Adolfo Celi and his criminal organisation T.H.A.N.A.T.O.S. in OK Connery—and some gadgets—like Mission Bloody Mary’s rooms that double as microwave ovens. Then top with hot leads like Matchless’s Patrick O'Neal, who plays a secret agent who can turn invisible or Daniela Bianchi, the former Miss Rome who va-va-voomed her way through 15 films, including From Russia with Love, and you get a unique and fun night at the movies.