Memory is an action mystery film directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), starring Liam Neeson, Guy Pearce, Monica Bellucci, Taj Atwal, Ray Fearon, Harold Torres, and Ray Stevenson. It is based on a Belgian novel from 1985 called, “De Zaak Alzheimer” by Jef Geeraerts which was already adapted into a 2003 Belgian film titled, “The Memory of a Killer.”
Alex (Neeson) is an expert assassin. He knows what he’s doing and has been at it for years. But when he goes against the rules and refuses to complete a job for a dangerous criminal organization, they turn on him. Suddenly Alex is in the sights of, not just the organization, but the FBI, and Mexican intelligence as well. Normally Alex would be able to handle the pressure but when he begins struggling with severe memory loss, he starts to question himself and his skills, & he can’t even trust himself?
The premise of Memory is a unique one: a hitman who is suffering from the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. The story is complicated and takes some surprising turns, led by an assassin with his own set of morals. The perfect anti-hero. The addition of a crippling mental disorder makes for a great sympathetic character.
Liam Neeson does a great job as Alex. He tugs at our heartstrings as he struggles to remember the smallest thing (“Where did I put my keys?”) to more important details (“Where was I last night?”). It is great to see him stretch his acting chops in this new take on a role we’ve seen him in plenty of times before. This is far from the hitman we’re used to seeing from Neeson: the cold and driven sharpshooter that walks away at the end of the movie with hardly a scratch on him. No, Alex makes mistakes. He’s vulnerable. He questions himself and, at times, is surprisingly reckless.
Guy Pierce does an equally terrific job as haunted FBI agent Vincent Serra. As every Hollywood FBI agent protagonist should be, he is a hothead and passionate about specific cases because of his background and history.
Coincidentally, this hitman film falls short in its execution. It isn’t a slow movie by any means. There is always something happening, and it is important to pay close attention to the details sprinkled throughout. However, it does come across as lengthy. Each of the scenes, while important, feel long-winded.
There is a lot of promise in the plot and in the backgrounds of all the unique characters: the hitman with Alzheimer’s, the FBI agent with a mysterious past, the hotheaded colleague, the insightful partner, and the beautiful but evil mastermind. Unfortunately, most of those characters aren’t utilized to their full potential. This is a good movie but not a great one. Unfortunately, Memory won’t be a movie committed to everyone’s… memory.