The Austin Chronicle


Rated R, 114 min. Directed by Martin Campbell. Starring Liam Neeson, Guy Pearce, Stella Stocker, Monica Bellucci, Ray Stevenson, Taj Atwal, Ray Fearon.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., April 29, 2022

No one does the Liam Neeson thing quite like Liam Neeson. He's got a corner on the "old guy gets revenge" market, so much so that there are now subgenres of the Liam Neeson thing. Take Memory, the latest in his never-ending supply of mumbling, granite-jawed and granite-fisted. Arguably, it's two subgenres combined. On one side is the remake of a gritty foreign film, as in Cold Pursuit (adapted from the 2014 Norwegian black comedy In Order of Disappearance) and the upcoming Retribution (adapted from the 2015 Spanish film El Desconocido). On the other are the more ethically questionable cartel thrillers, like The Marksman.

It's not that Neeson isn't taking on other kinds of roles, like the quirky father-son bonding of Made in Italy, or being by far the best part of Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House. But the El Paso-set Memory is another film about a man with a particular set of skills, as Neeson plays a hit man who suddenly develops a conscience when instructed by the Mexican mob to kill a kid. The twist, as taken from the source material, 2003 Belgian crime flick The Memory of a Killer, is that contract killer Alex Lewis (Neeson) is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. That's unfortunate, as audience members will need a sharp mind to keep track of the bloated cast of supporting characters trying to figure their way through this not-actually-convoluted story of cross-border crime.

Heading up that list, at least in the credits, is Pearce as Detective Vincent Serra, who walks the audience through the exposition-heavy explanatory sequences while Alex leaves him scarcely enigmatic clues on the phone. It's an unfortunate piece of casting – not because the L.A. Confidential star isn't, as always, a ready hand with this kind of crime drama – but because Alex leaves notes for himself on his arm in marker pen, a trick that director Erik Van Looy used in the 2003 original clearly knowing that it was going to remind audiences of Pearce's career-defining role in Memento. This film, it's turtles all the way down, a teetering stack of references so constant that it's hard to tell how deliberate they are.

Maybe the problem is Neeson. The original cast Jan Decleir as the increasingly unmoored killer hoping for redemption, and he brought none of the Irish actor's tough-guy baggage with him. Equally, longtime James Bond director Martin Campbell drops all of Van Looy's visual flair and trickery, and doesn't replace it with much more than gloom, turning the story into Sicario lite. Memory is better than some Neeson action flicks, worse than others, but, predictable as it is to say, you'll have trouble remembering it much longer than its run time.

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