Premise: An assassin-for-hire finds that he’s become a target after he refuses to complete a job for a dangerous criminal organization. A remake of the 2003 Belgian film ‘The Memory of a Killer’.
Memory, from director Martin Campbell, is the latest in the seemingly never-ending slew of Liam Neeson action films. Its plot is as bare bones as they come as it spins its yarn of a dual narrative between Alex Lewis (Neeson’s hitman with a conscious) and an FBI agent (Guy Pearce) who crosses his path. The straightforward plot finds Alex (who’s battling the early stages of alzheimer’s) turning his gun on those who hired him after he’s contracted to murder a child. Meanwhile, Pearce’s Vincent forms a connection with the young undocumented victim of human trafficking that Neeson has spared.
Memory isn’t an aggressively bad film. It’s just an exercise in very poor storytelling and bad editing. The formulaic plot handles Alex’s alzheimer’s reasonably well in the sense that a considerable amount of time is spent actually underplaying his illness. We fortunately are not inundated with moments where Alex’s hitman skills are hampered by his failing memory and the film never uses it as a device for action or anything really surface level. The consequence of underplaying this part of the plot, however, is that it becomes less of a focus on the overall story and more like a single piece of backstory for a flimsy, clichéd hitman character. When Alex’s memory does factor into the plot late in the movie, it lacks any emotional resonance and acts solely as a plot necessity with limited stakes.
Elsewhere in the narrative, Guy Pearce’s FBI agent Vincent is also sadly given the narrative short shrift. Vincent has a solid monologue toward the end of the film that brings some of the character into a slightly sharper focus. But it’s not enough to salvage any emotional catharsis out of the dullness of the movie as a whole up to that point. In fact, it comes almost entirely out of left field and doesn’t inform much (if any) of his character choices throughout the movie. It plays out as an anecdote worthy of its own short film rather than an integral piece of the overall narrative.
Of course, the draw for many when it comes to Liam Neeson action vehicles is in the action itself. On that front, Memory is only mildly entertaining. The opening sequence (which establishes Alex as a ruthless hitman) is the standout of the movie. Neeson is calm and measured throughout the scene and the film does a solid job of misdirecting the audience while maintaining the more restrained tone of the sequence. Unfortunately, the other set pieces feel slapped together and heavily edited down in an attempt at some cohesion. The result is a few dull sequences that barely make sense, much less break any mold.
Aside from the opening sequence, a respectable but misplaced monologue by Pearce, and a limp to a largely nonsensical conclusion, Memory doesn’t have much going for it. If you’re looking for a fun action thriller with Liam Neeson front and center, you may have better luck perusing one of the numerous titles he’s been involved in over the last decade. If you attempt to mine some depth out of this forgettable entry, though, you’re more likely to just end up frustrated and bored.
Memory is currently in theaters.
About the Writer: Matt Hurt is the creator of ObsessiveViewer.com. He also created, hosts, and produces The Obsessive Viewer, Anthology, and Tower Junkies podcasts. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and lives in Indianapolis with his cat Pizza Roll.
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