Here’s another movie tapping into the well-worn ‘hero with amnesia’ premise. You know the ones – the protagonist wakes up unable to remember who they are. Soon they’re shooting it out with a bunch of goons who want to kill them, all while trying to piece back together their memory. This latest spin on the story isn’t much of a spin at all. But it does star the ever likable Josh Duhamel, so there’s that.
Sharing the same title with as least 30 other movies (according to IMDB), “Blackout” tells a story that ends up being as uninspired as its name. Duhamel plays John Cain, who wakes up in a hospital bed following a serious car accident. It just so happens that Cain has lost his memory. He has no idea who he is or how he got there. By his side is Anna (an incredibly dry Abbie Cornish) saying she’s his wife. Later he’s visited by Eddie (Omar Chaparro) claiming to be his best friend. But why can’t he remember either of them.
It turns out Cain possesses a briefcase full of something the drug cartels are desperate to get their hands on. The problem is he has no recollection of the briefcase or of what’s inside it. But as his memory slowly starts returning, he finds himself questioning the information different people are feeding him. What are lies? What’s the truth? Even more, if Eddie is Cain’s friend why is he suddenly trying to kill our woozy protagonist? Soon we have a full-scale shoot-em-up as the cartel locks down hospital, and Cain tries to escape while sorting out who he can ultimately trust.
Directed by Sam Macaroni and written by Van B. Nguyen, “Blackout” bops along fairly briskly after getting its setup out of the way. The mostly single setting is a compelling choice and Macaroni has a good eye for action. The fistfights and shoot-outs don’t always make sense and some are just plain silly. But they’re stylishly shot, and Duhamel has the physicality to pull them off.
Unfortunately Nguyen’s script isn’t as reliable. First off, she’s bound by a pretty tired premise and doesn’t really offer anything new to the old formula. As for the suspense, Nguyen tries to keep us guessing by spoon-feeding just enough information. But there really aren’t many surprises, and everything plays out in a way most people will have figured out well before the not-so-big reveal. It’s also hampered by some pretty hokey dialogue, especially once Nick Nolte shows up. He plays DEA Agent Ethan McCoy, an old friend of Cain’s trying to help him from the outside. It’s great seeing Nolte on screen again. But the 81-year-old screen veteran struggles, and isn’t helped by some really hammy lines that frankly no one could sell.
So “Blackout” ends up being a pretty generic action-thriller that has some decent shootouts and a couple of good fight scenes. There’s just not enough under the hood to make this thing go. It’s simply too by-the-books and even the charming Josh Duhamel can’t liven it up or give it the kick it needs. It’s a shame because I still believe Duhamel can carry bigger movies and handle meatier roles if only given the chance. Sadly, “Blackout” won’t do anything to enhance those opportunities. “Blackout” is now streaming on Netflix.