Liam Neeson is driving the same wagon that the Schindler’s List actor has been stereotyped for since his 2010 release, “Taken.” “Memory” belongs to the same nasty world where Neeson, though, is not an ex-cop, but an assassin who abides by a code and lives by the gun. The nature of work might not be any different from that of a mercenary, but he still holds onto certain human values, and that makes a world of difference. Over the years, Neeson has built this image of a wounded lion, lurking in the shadows, who might not be as agile as he once used to be, but still has the ferocity to take down even the most powerful men. Even when the actor is portraying roles that have characteristic shades of gray, there is a certain nobility that comes innately with his quiet demeanor. The audience always believes that under the violent and felonious exterior, there would be a hidden virtuous side that would sooner or later make him reverse the consequences of his actions. It also sometimes serves as a spoiler because you know the story is going to unfold on the basis of the image that Neeson has created for himself over the years, and so it removes that element of surprise from the scheme of things.
“Memory” is a remake of the 2003 Belgian crime thriller, “The Memory of a Killer,” and is based on a novel called “De Zaak Alzheimer’s,” written by Jef Geeraerts. The film is directed by Martin Campbell and stars Liam Neeson, Monica Bellucci, Guy Pearce, Taj Atwal, and Harold Torres in prominent roles.
Alex Lewis is one of the deadliest assassins in El Paso, Texas. He generally works on a contract basis, and this time he has been hired by somebody who is not only powerful but desperate to hide their footsteps. It’s a dark and deceitful world out there, and people are double-faced. Nobody could be trusted. Alex knows that, and that is why he lives a secluded life, having no strings attached. He finally wants to retire and tells his partner the same. But there is one last task that needs to be completed, and Alex is vested with the responsibility to do the same. Alex was suffering from Alzheimer’s and used to write details of his targets on his forearm. He was finding it extremely hard to function properly. There were times when he woke up and didn’t know where he was or what he was up to.
Vincent Serra, an FBI agent, was looking into a matter of child trafficking. He had got a lead and had launched a thorough investigation. He went to a man’s house as a client, whom he believed to be a part of the trafficking network. The man offered Serra the services of his daughter in return for money, and left them in a bedroom. The 13-year-old daughter, Beatriz Leon, discovered by chance that Vincent Serra was wearing a microphone and was an FBI agent. She shouts for her father, who enters into a scuffle with Serra. They fall from the window, and the father dies. The daughter is sent to a detention center. Serra feels bad for the unfortunate girl and makes arrangements to shift her to foster care, where she wouldn’t be restricted like in a detention center. Alex Lewis was given a contract to kill Beatriz Leon, but he didn’t know that she was just a 13-year-old girl. He doesn’t kill her, but he gets to know that somebody else had killed the girl after he left the scene.
Davana Sealman, an affluent and powerful businesswoman, was involved in the whole trafficking business. Alex might have been an assassin, but he had a moral compass. His conscience didn’t allow him to let the powerful people do things according to their whims and fancies. He wanted to expose them. He knew that Davana’s son had to do something with the trafficking and abuse of minor girls. He had the evidence that he thought was sufficient to prove them guilty in a court of law. He wanted to reach out to Vincent Serra and give him the details. But there were two problems. Firstly, he was himself being chased by the police, and secondly, it was getting harder for him to remember anything due to his rapidly increasing Alzheimer’s. He had evidence that had the potential to incriminate the perpetrators, but he had forgotten where he had hidden it. He develops an unlikely bond with Vincent Serra, who patiently waits for him to remember the details and also protects him from the local police.
Memory, maybe intentionally, refrains from becoming a pulsating thriller. Its narrative slowly burns, leading us to the climax, but it loses its potency on more than one occasion. With the protagonist suffering from Alzheimer’s, writing details on his forearms, and the presence of Guy Pearce at the helm of affairs, it becomes impossible to not find traces of Nolan’s “Memento” in the screenplay. But “Memory” lacks the depth that such a narrative demands. The intention of Martin Campbell is in the right place, but the narrative lacks that detailing that swallows you completely inside the world. Liam Neeson is shown as almost invincible in his role as an assassin, which again becomes hard for the viewers to digest. The ease and convenience with which Alex Lewis goes about his business, not only makes it look unconvincing but also facile. The issue is that the film is neither as stylish as “Taken,” nor does it enter into the nitty-gritties of the trafficking business, making it flutter somewhere in between the distinctly demarcated execution styles. The acting performances are effective, though the actors are not given much to devour. The cinematography by David Tattersall and the editing by Jo Francis are able to build up a grim and murky atmosphere that desperately tries to pull the narrative out of the shallow waters. It tries to replicate a formula and tries to be earnest in its approach.
But “Memory” just ceases to be like a platter that is made up of characters that are not fully baked and a screenplay that is devoid of any authentic flavors.
“Memory” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Martin Campbell.