Liam Neeson will never be able to shed the action cliché that became synonymous with his name after Taken. Rightfully so, Neeson has proved to be a worthy actor in beating up the bad guys and saving the day. Still, his newest film, Memory, lacks the utter punch of his previous action ventures despite an intriguing story. Director Martin Campbell, best known for notable action films such as Goldeneye, The Mask of Zorro, and Casino Royale, still knows how to make entertaining movies. Sadly, Memory is not one of them. It’s well-intentioned but ultimately forgettable.
The movie primarily takes place in El Paso, Texas, where Alex Lewis (Liam Neeson), an aging hitman who has never failed an assignment, struggles when completing his last job. He’s suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Despite his ability to kill his targets with ease and to defend a woman being hassled by a drunk in a hotel bar, Alex sometimes forgets things. He writes down notes on his forearm to have a go-to checklist for the times when his memory seems to fail. Even when Alex visits his brother, who already has the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, there is no connection. It’s the equivalent of staring at a blank wall.
After Alex fails to complete his assignment, which involves murdering a thirteen-year girl, all the danger is now pointed at Alex. Although this may sound like one of those movies where the hitman has to kill everyone in his path to achieve a life of freedom, this film settles for a mystery that ties the hitman to a much more extensive investigation. Memory is an American remake of the Belgian film The Alzheimer’s Case, inspired by the Dutch novel De zaak Alzheimer by Jef Geeraerts. The investigation involves Alex’s employers and the clients involved in why he was to kill a young child. I don’t want to spoil everything here, but it requires child sex trafficking and a powerful real-estate developer who is secretly protecting the people involved.
The El Paso police primarily lead the investigation, but further assistance is provided by Vincent Serra (Guy Pearce), a dedicated FBI agent who specializes in apprehending child sex traffickers. As the investigation unfolds, the authorities realize that the hitman is not only cleaning up the criminals who can’t be caught due to lack of evidence, but he is going after the people who are helping conceal the crime. One of his targets is a powerful real estate developer named Davanna Salman (Monica Bellucci). She has many secrets and will do anything to ensure her protection.
The action sequences in this movie are far and few but are handled just fine. There isn’t much quick-paced editing in those scenes, which helps us understand what is happening. Both Nesson and Pearce provide good performances, plus the supporting cast does what they can. I was interested in watching Guy Pearce, who gives a solid performance as Vincent. I got engaged with his character. Overall, the story is fine, but it isn’t exciting, to be honest, here. It just feels standard and plain. I didn’t mind the idea of the hitman cleaning up the mess, but since the movie keeps mentioning the Alzheimer’s angle that affects Neeson’s character, I wanted more of that. It would’ve been a fun time watching him forget more of what he was doing. The problem is that the movie wants us to remember that this guy tends to forget but shows us scenes of him finding his targets with ease and somehow knowing who’s involved in the sex trafficking operation and where to find them!
Dario Scardapane wrote the screenplay, and I suspect that the idea of Alex forgetting more was in the original script, but somewhere along the way, the filmmakers forgot about it. This simple observance undercuts the movie’s mystery as we sit there waiting for the bad guys to be killed and the movie to end. Sure, I enjoyed the investigation portion of the film, but seeing the memory loss only served the plot when needed most.
Score 2 out of 5
Despite the good cast and direction from Martin Campbell, Memory is a decent action movie that has more on its mind than gunfights and explosions. While the story is complicated and somewhat engaging, overall, I didn’t feel much excitement while viewing the film, and it’s just boring, to say the least. With Campbell’s two most recent films, The Protégé and The Foreigner being somewhat entertaining action movies, Memory feels like a stepdown. Fans of Liam Neeson may be enticed to see this movie based on his star power, but by the end, you’ll be left with just the basics and not the thrill you were hoping for.