Pop Culture

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Memory

A man on the verge of forgetting it all.
A man on the verge of forgetting it all. Screenshot
Title: Memory

Describe This Movie In One Memento Quote:
Natalie: What's the last thing that you do remember?
Leonard: My wife...
Natalie: That's sweet.
Leonard: ...dying.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Liam Neeson tries out a new wrinkle in an old formula.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2 Roy Battys out of 5.
Tagline: "HIs mind is fading. His conscience is clear."

Better Tagline: "His aim is true. Hey, wouldn't you rather listen to some Elvis Costello?"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Alex Lewis (Liam Neeson) is an assassin with a problem (aside from, you know, the illegal career choice): he has Alzheimer's disease. As his mind betrays him, he finds himself unable to separate actual memories from dementia. When he's targeted for refusing a contract that includes killing a young girl (Mia Sanchez), his illness hinders his ability to exact revenge, and causes him to run afoul of FBI agent Vincent Serra (Guy Pearce), who has his own connection to the girl.
"Critical" Analysis: Most movies featuring a character suffering from Alzheimer's disease are dramatic efforts spotlighting the struggles of the protagonist (or someone close to them) as their mental faculties decline. Martin Campbell's Memory isn't the first thriller that tackles the subject, and it's certainly not the best.

Based on a 2003 Belgian film (De zaak Alzheimer), Memory follows in the footsteps of 1998's Safe House which — if you remember* — also finds its lead trying to complete one final heroic task before succumbing to the disease.

*You don't remember. Stop lying.

Of course, "heroic" is in the eye of the beholder. Lewis is apparently one of those Leon-style hired killers who doesn't truck with offing kids. As always, this is supposed to be regarded as noble following what is presumably a lifelong career of murders-for-hire.

Those who remember Campbell as the director of two of the best latter era Bond movies (Goldeneye and Casino Royale) may find Memory a bit talky for their tastes, but should still enjoy those Neeson hallmarks,. both old (bouncing a guy's head off a bar) and new (shooting a dude on a treadmill).

To his credit, Neeson tries to stretch himself beyond what the last decade or so of revenge pics has required of him. His Lewis is mindful of what he's losing and even frail, in a way. The vulnerability should be expected, given the subject matter, but is still a bit incongruous after seeing the guy exhibit his particular set of skills over and over again.

Pearce also turns in an affably dirtbag performance, and one can imagine him giving Neeson tips about writing reminders on yourself. It's hard to believe neither Campbell nor writer Dario Scardapane ever saw Memento, but then again, maybe the writers of that Belgian movie ripped it off first. All art is theft, as Carlos Mencia once said.

Speaking of Bond, Monica Bellucci shows up 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 have her and Lewis commiserate about the inevitability of decrepitude, and the fact there really isn't one means the "killer with Alzheimer's" thing ends up just being a gimmick.

So it's a "good job, good effort" kind of movie. Props to Campbell and Neeson for trying to spice up the usual murderous melange, but Memory ends up just as forgettable as all those other flicks.

Memory is in theaters today.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar