Movie review: Memory is a Neeson hat-trick

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You could create an interesting Venn diagram from the movies Liam Neeson has starred in over the past few years. He made remakes of foreign films – see cold pursuit and the next Punishment. He played the killers in black light and in-production In the land of saints and sinners. And he’s been a badass trying to do the right thing in The sniper and The ice road.

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And then there is Memory, which seems to have been reverse-engineered to be Liam Neeson’s perfect end-of-career action-thriller. It has a foreign pedigree, being a remake of the 2003 Belgian film The memory of a killeralso known as The case of Alzheimer’s. Neeson plays an assassin – in fact, he kills his first victim less than three minutes into the film. But he has a moral code; he won’t kill the children, damn it!

He also suffers from progressive memory loss, which screenwriter Dario Scardapane exemplifies randomly, which is my term for something both random and clunky. In an early scene, we see Neeson’s character, Alex Lewis, forgetting where he left his car keys. A little later, he uses his arm as a notepad to remember the details of his missions. But other than playing until the very end of the story, the condition has little effect on the plot.

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It begins when Alex refuses to kill Beatriz (Mia Sanchez), a young victim of sex trafficking who some say knows too much. Another killer then steps in to finish the job and tries to drag Alex out for good measure, leading to bodies piling up all over El Paso.

Two steps behind Alex for most of the film are FBI agents Serra and Amistead (Guy Pearce, Taj Atwal), along with Ray Fearon as their tough-as-nails boss, and Ray Stevenson as Detective Danny Mora from the local police. In true crime-thriller fashion, Serra feels that Alex, despite a life of crime, is a man of trust, as he wants to bring down the high-profile scumbags who hire him to do their dirty work.

Neeson hasn’t had a great run lately. The last truly memorable movie he starred in was Steve McQueen’s widows from 2018, and it was just part of a set. At 70 this year, he seems to favor quantity over quality. Memory, alas, goes into the first category. It’s forgettable.

Memory opens April 29 in theaters.

2 out of 5 stars

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