The Memory of a Killer
2003, R, 118 min. Directed by Erik Van Looy. Starring Koen De Bouw, Jan Decleir, Werner De Smedt, Geert Van Rampelberg, Jo De Meyere, Hilde De Baerdemaeker.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 23, 2005
Also known as The Alzheimer Case, this Belgian film tells the story of a hitman who is losing his memory. Like the hero of Memento, Angelo Ledda (Decleir) has taken to writing important notes to himself on his arm. Yet he knows he has a job from which there’s no retirement, so he accepts another job but balks from committing the deed when he realizes one of his targets is a 12-year-old girl. Even a contract killer has certain standards. It turns out that this girl is the same one seen in the film’s opening sequence: A police sting operation takes down a child-sex operation in which the girl’s father sells her to all comers. The movie has the shape of a police procedural and is based on a novel by Jef Geeraerts. Eric Vincke (De Bouw), the detective who posed as the sex procurer in the sting, is also on the case of a string of seemingly related murders that ultimately link him up with Ledda. The entire movie winds through the series of murders in which the cops are always a few minutes behind Ledda, and Ledda has gone rogue and is now settling scores on his own (even though the reasons for his actions remain cloaked). Decleir brings a quiet dignity to this hitman with his own moral code and receding memory. And as is common in these sorts of films, an uncommon understanding develops between the cop and his quarry. The twists and turns make The Memory of a Killer intriguing to watch for its entire two hours, and director Van Looy employs lots of jacked-up visual techniques (jump cuts, swish edits, etc.) that also help keep the audience rapt. Winner of multiple Belgian awards and a box-office hit at home, The Memory of a Killer should translate well for American audiences. The movie is tightly wound and expertly unraveled, resulting in a thriller that you’ll remember – unlike the hitman Ledda.