Rated R. At AMC Boston Common, AMC South Bay and suburban theaters.
Based on the memorable 2005 Belgian thriller “De zaak Alzheimer” (aka “The Memory of a Killer” in the U.S.), an adaptation of a novel by Belgian author Jef Geeraerts, “Memory” comes to us with impressive credits. Directed by Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale”) and featuring Liam Neeson in the lead as an aging hit man suffering from Alzheimer’s, “Memory” also boasts Aussie Guy Pearce as an agent on Neeson’s trail.
Neeson’s Alex Lewis refuses to kill a child named Beatriz (Mia Sanchez), who has been trafficked by her own father. Alex, therefore, becomes a target himself of a deadly cartel. The police are also after Alex, who is limping along, writing notes to himself on his skin. Meanwhile, Alex decides to kill everyone involved with killing Beatriz, while getting the word out to Pearce’s Vincent Serra that he’s doing the police’s work for them, which becomes the vigilante subtext of the film.
Guy Pearce stars as Vincent Serra in director Martin Campbell’s ‘MEMORY,’ an Open Road Films / Briarcliff Entertainment release.Credit: Rico Torres | Open Road Films / Briarcliff Entertainment
Written by Dario Scardapane (TV’s “The Punisher”), “Memory” changes the gender of the Mr. Big character in “Memory of a Killer” from a corrupt aristocratic male to a beautiful, super-rich, middle-aged woman named Davana Sealman (Monica Bellucci), whose adult son is a pedophile. Davana protects her son, therefore enabling him to attack children. Also in the mix is the welcome Ray Stevenson (TV’s “Vikings”) as another tough cop on Alex’s bloody trail.
With all this talent and pedigree, you’d think “Memory” might amount to something. But, alas, it does not. Neeson has been chasing the lightning in the bottle that was Pierre Morel’s “Taken” (2008) for a long time with scant results. “Taken 2” (2012) and “Taken 3” (2014), both directed by Olivier Megaton (“Transporter 3”), were duds. “A Walk Among the Tombstones” (2014) showed promise. But Neeson has not played Lawrence Block’s haunted ex-cop hero Matt Scudder again (yet).
Shot in the abdomen, Alex pulls a Rambo stunt, searing the wound. I love the smell of flambeed bullet wounds. It turns out Alex’s family ran a bakery in El Paso, Texas, where the action is set and the film was shot. Alex does not bake anyone a cake, but he takes refuge in the bakery’s abandoned basement, like the bakery version of the Phantom of the Opera.
In one scene, Alex shows Pearce’s Serra how he has been writing notes on his arm to remind him of things. You may recall that Pearce made his professional breakthrough as the lead in Christopher Nolan’s “Memento” (2000).
On the whole, “Memory” is not up to the usual standards of its makers or cast. Neeson, whose great talent is a given, plays the title role in Neil Jordan’s upcoming Raymond Chandler-based crime drama “Marlowe” with Diana Kruger and Jessica Lange. Let’s keep our finger crossed for that.
(“Memory” contains violence, bloody images and profanity.)