This new genre-bending foray from Joshua Marston set in the dark neon glow of the Big Apple is far from the social realism of his affecting Maria Full of Grace.
Michael Shannon, Rachel Weisz, and Kathy Bates are the principals in "Complete Unknown" that is rather elusive and doesn't work that persuasively given a tantalizing set-up befallen in all likelihood by an early 'divulgence.' The result being curiously uninspired and cursory if the hope existed for more exploration around the transience of mind and identity.
Michael Chernus is the irritating colleague of Shannon's married governmental legislative draftsman Tom who's hosting his own birthday bash with biologist Alice, an alluring, but too obfuscating Weisz (very impressive in films like The Constant Gardener and The Deep Blue Sea) as his date. Tom is stressed over his jewelry designer wife (Azita Ghanizada) looking to enhance her professional status through coursework in San Diego.
The party allows for a definite presence and influence on the guests (in different ways) from what appears to be chameleonic, at least from Tom's standpoint. A secret emerges that will finally lead to a more private discussion and sauntering through the city which will eponymously burrow into a recognition of (even yearning to) change (that is alluded to in a pre-credits sequence).
Another scene which includes Bates as an aging voluble lady provides some impetus through legerdemain after an injury, but not enough to make the storyline more than a pretentious 'what if' meander. The filmmaking doesn't want to take the material into the depth of 'why' suggesting a modern parable for our times.
It's not that Shannon and Weisz, in particular, divest well enough to merit some accolades: for the former steps back from a reliable brooding streak. Unknown just doesn't give Weisz enough of the insinuating passion needed to enliven on-screen activity which might have made it more complete than a prosaic cinematic tease finely shaded by fabrics and hues in the costume department.