Review: Memory | Houston Press

Title: Memory

Describe this movie in one Memento Quote:

Natalie: What’s the last thing you remember?
Leonard: My wife …
Natalie: It’s cute.
Leonard: … dying.

Short plot synopsis: Liam Neeson is trying out a new wrinkle in an old formula.

Assessment using random objects relevant to the film: 2 Roy Battys out of 5.

click to enlarge YOUTUBE

Tagline: “His mind fades. His conscience is pure.”

Better tagline: “His goal is true. Hey, wouldn ‘t you rather listen to something Elvis Costello?”

Not so short plot synopsis: Alex Lewis (Liam Neeson) is an assassin with a problem (apart from, you know, the illegal career choice): he has Alzheimer’s disease. As his mind betrays him, he is unable to separate actual memories from dementia. As he is targeted for refusing a contract that includes killing a young girl (Mia Sanchez), his illness hampers his ability to take revenge and causes him to run into fights with FBI agent Vincent Serra (Guy Pearce), which has its own connection to girl.

“Critical” analysis: Most films with a character suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are dramatic efforts to focus on the protagonist’s (or someone close to them)’s struggles as their mental abilities decline. Martin Campbells Memory is not the first thriller to tackle the subject, and it is certainly not the best.

Based on a Belgian film from 2003 (Alzheimer’s case), Memory follows in the footsteps of the 1998s Safe house who – if you remember it * – also finds his starting point in the attempt to complete one last heroic task before succumbing to the disease.

* You do not remember. Stop lying.

Of course, “heroic” is in the eye of the beholder. Lewis is apparently one of them Leon-style hired killers who do not drive trucks with future children. As always, this is supposed to be considered noble after what is probably a lifelong career of murder-to-let.

Those who remember Campbell as the director of two of the best Bond films of the last era (Golden eye and Royal Casino) can find Memory a bit talkative to their liking, but should still enjoy the Neeson characteristics. both old (jumps a guy’s head from a bar) and new (shoots a guy on a treadmill).

In his honor, Neeson tries to go beyond what the last decade or so of revenge has demanded of him. Hans Lewis is aware of what he is losing and even fragile in a way. The vulnerability should be expected given the topic, but it’s still a bit incongruent after seeing the guy show off his particular set of skills over and over again.

Pearce also delivers a friendly dirtbag performance, and one can imagine him giving Neeson tips on writing reminders about yourself. It’s hard to believe that neither Campbell nor author Dario Scardapane ever saw Memento, but then again, maybe the writers of the Belgian film have ripped it off first. All art is theft, as Carlos Mencia once said.

Speaking of Bond, Monica Bellucci appears as Davana Sealman, the businesswoman who turns out to be The Big Bad and also happens to be obsessed with immortality. It feels like a missed opportunity not to get her and Lewis to commissary over the inevitability of decay, and the fact that there really is no one means that the “killer with Alzheimer’s” ends up just being a gimmick.

So it’s a “good job, good effort” kind of movie. Props to Campbell and Neeson to try to spice up the usual murderous melange, but Memory ends up just as forgettable as all the other movies.

The memory is in the cinema today.

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