What a shame. This is a film that could have been so much more. Memory stars Liam Neeson as a veteran assassin named Alex nearing the end of his career. While Alex, suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s, is ready to leave the game for good, he quickly learns it’s never that simple in his line of business. “There’s no retiring for guys like us”, his fellow assassin Mauricio (Lee Boardman, Rome) tells him. When Alex is asked to take the life of an innocent child, he decides enough is enough and that he is going right the wrongs of his past.
The issues with this film start with the title and (apparently) hook of the film. There have been an abundance of movies about assassins, but how many about one who is slowly losing his ability to remember? They remind us a couple of times about Alex’s condition by showing him writing notes on the inside of his arm, but aside from that Alex’s dementia rarely impacts the film at all.
When Alex begins his tour of vigilante justice, he attracts the attention of FBI Agent Vincent Serra, played admirably by Guy Pearce who, coincidentally, is best known for being the lead in Memento, a critically acclaimed movie with a forgetful protagonist. Serra, who was responsible for the incarceration of illegal immigrant Beatriz (Mia Sanchez), the girl Alex was tasked with killing, has a much more interesting and far less familiar plight than Alex. Serra is the head of a task force that is fighting a seemingly endless battle against corruption, and the deeper he digs the more he finds that the people he answers to may be the ones standing in his way.
There is a world where Pearce’s Serra is the centerpiece of this film, where the themes of our treatment of immigrants and the way money and power corrupt, were given the focus they deserved. Unfortunately, this is Neeson’s film, so Alex is stuck front and center. Alex, for a reason the viewer is not given until it is clumsily thrown their way in the third act, is determined to destroy each and every person responsible for the hit on Beatriz. This brings us to the film’s antagonist Davana Sealman (Monica Bellucci, Spectre). Bellucci does her best, but the unfocused script gives her very little to work with.
This disappointment of Memory doesn’t stop in its plot decisions and character development, or lack thereof. Memory, billed as an action thriller, falls short in that department as well, particularly compared to Neeson’s other films in the genre. If the film is able to hold your attention through the end of the film, it will probably occur to you that the film may have been better served if it hadn’t split its focus. If, rather than leaning on the familiar aspects a viewer may expect when walking into a Liam Neeson action movie, it trusted its audience and took a risk.
Perhaps, then, it would have been a movie worth remembering.
Memory was released in theaters on April 29.