Nothing about the Netflix thriller “Blackout” (*** out of ****) from its generic title to its amnesiac hero who dodges trigger-happy hordes of gunmen after him is remotely original. Typically, when people think about amnesia epics, Matt Damon’s popular Jason Bourne film franchise comes to mind. Long before “The Bourne Identity” (2002) and its four sequels, filmmakers had been cranking out thrillers about heroes and heroines suffering from amnesia with pistol-packing killers at their heels.

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“Fear in the Night” (1946), “36 Hours” (1964), “The Man Called Noon” (1973), ”Total Recall” (1990), “Clean Slate” (1994), “The Long Kiss Goodnight” (1996), “Memento” (2000), and “Mulholland Drive” (2001) rank as some of the best action-oriented amnesia epics. If you’ve seen any of these, not only are you acquainted with the premise but also the gauntlet of obstacles our protagonist must hurdle.

Like most amnesiac heroes, John Cain (Josh Duhamel of “The Transformers” movies) awakens in “Blackout” to find himself sprawled on his back in a Mexican hospital bed, with his loyal wife, Anna (Abbie Cornish of “Sucker Punch”), hovering at his elbow.

Our hero’s adversaries are heavily armed henchmen who failed to liquidate him during a careening car chase that ended with Cain smashing up his vehicle, wiping his memory, and landing in a hospital. Neither “Guest House” director Sam Macaroni nor “Boyhood” scenarist Van B. Nguyen let the momentum slacken in this nimble, bullet-riddled actioneer that piles up a double-digit body count!

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Hollywood makes two kinds of amnesia movies. The first kind are those where only the hero is in the dark. Memory loss plagues him. You know more about him than he remembers about himself. The second kind are those that keep both hero and audience in the dark.

Everything is a mystery which must be unraveled. “Blackout” qualifies as the first kind. Macaroni and Nguyen share details with the audience about Cain’s past. Moreover, the opening gambit in “Blackout” constitutes the set-up.

Cain has fled to his house in Arizona near the Mexican border. Cartel gunmen have trailed him. After arming an explosive gadget on his property, he escapes via a tunnel under his residence linked to a city electrical conduit tunnel.

An explosion moments later destroys his house. The blast incinerates one of the intruders. Alas, this only slows down his enemies. Intercepting Cain on the highway, they devastate his car with a hail of machine gunfire. Cain loses control of the sedan, and the vehicle tumbles like a giant log.

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Suddenly, he finds himself wrestling with a hospital orderly. Cain’s doctor, Dr. Garza (Jose Sefami of “Miss Bala”), assures Cain that he will recover his memory.

Meantime, in Arizona, at the site of Cain’s demolished dwelling, a team of DEA agents led by Ethan McCoy (Nick Nolte of “Extreme Prejudice”) rummage through the wreckage. We learn Cain has been AWOL for several days.

Mind you, neither McCoy nor the DEA knew about Cain’s secret underground passage. McCoy assembles a team to rescue Cain. Eventually, we learn Cain had infiltrated a cartel. Cain’s long-time partner Eddie (Omar Chaparro of “Aztec Warrior”) arrives at the hospital.

He suspects that Cain may have double-crossed him because the latter stole $20 million. Before he can kill his old partner, Eddie must know where Cain stashed a suitcase. This particular suitcase is reminiscent of the attaché case in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” (1994).

It contains a Pandora’s box of cartel secrets. Eddie locks the hospital down to prevent Cain from escaping. He deploys his henchmen to prowl the premises like predators.

Virtually the entire film occurs in the single setting of the hospital. Nevertheless,  “Blackout” is far from claustrophobic. Skillfully, Macaroni and Nguyen parcel out details about Cain that shed light on his shady shenanigans with the Cartel as well as the DEA and CIA.

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The dialogue scenes propel the plot forward rather than slow it down. Macaroni stages both fireworks and fisticuffs scenes with flair and spontaneity. He lenses the hallway gunfights in graceful slow-motion.

Spent shell casings somersault sideways from submachine gun ejection ports. Muzzle flashes erupt as adversaries trigger streams of bullets that ricochet noisily off metal surfaces. A knuckle-smashing clash in an elevator qualifies as one of the best elevator fights since the James Bond movie “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971).

Naturally, our hero and heroine fare better at hitting their targets than Eddie and his killers. Rather than looking clean-cut, Duhamel resembles the Marvel Comics’ character Reed Richards, with his grizzled temples and piratical beard.

Nick Nolte spends most of his time chewing out his subordinates. The twist ending is a neat touch as the filmmakers bring everything full circle. As villains go, Eddie is far more charming than cruel. However, nothing is a cake walk for Cain in “Blackout.”

Clocking in at 81 agile minutes, ten of which the end credits take up, “Blackout” emerges as a suspenseful cat & mouse melodrama with Cain, Eddie, and Anna swapping lead with each other.


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