Flat characters, tangled plot make 'Memory' forgettable
Back in 2001, Guy Pearce starred in Christopher Nolan’s “Memento,” a film about a man tracking down his wife’s killer while suffering from memory loss, using notes and tattoos on his body to remember clues in his search. In 2022, he’s co-starring in a film in which a contract killer suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s uses similar methods in order to keep track of details.
But that’s where the comparisons between “Memento” and Martin Campbell’s “Memory” end. The former was a groundbreaking Neo-noir classic; the latter is best forgotten as soon as possible.
“Memory” is yet another entry in the Liam Neeson Gets Revenge sub-genre, a sprawling body of work that sprung up after the surprise success of the 2008 action-thriller “Taken.” You know the drill: a child or some other vulnerable person is threatened, his character has got a very particular set of skills, rescue and/or vengeance ensues. That’s at least one of the plots of “Memory,” a tangled mess of intertwining storylines and too many two-dimensional characters.
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“Memory” is a remake of a 2003 Belgian crime thriller, “De zaak Alzheimer,” based on the book by Jef Geeraerts. Dario Scardapane adapted the screenplay for “Memory,” which is fairly faithful to the original. Neeson plays Alex Lewis, the aforementioned assassin with Alzheimer’s, who’s getting out of the game after one last gig. When he discovers one of his intended victims is a young teenage girl, a victim of sex trafficking by her father, who was accidentally killed in an FBI raid, Alex not only backs out, he decides to go after everyone who hired him to kill the girl in the first place.
Simultaneously, the film follows the FBI agent, Vincent Serra (Pearce) who accidentally killed the trafficked girl’s father and now feels guilty about leaving her in a vulnerable position, stuck in a detention center, about to be deported to Mexico. But Vincent’s got a lot more on his plate, as Alex the assassin starts stacking bodies around El Paso as he works his way up the sex-trafficking food chain, which ends at the top of a Texas corporate real estate firm, which is headed up by (checks notes) Monica Bellucci?! She’s playing a mogul named Davana Sealman, who has hired Alex through a middleman to cover up evidence of her terrible son’s wrongdoings with the sex-trafficked minor.
“Memory” has a decent director in Campbell and a great cast (yes, that’s Ray Stevenson as a corrupt cop in there as well), but a crippling case of a bad script that can’t manage to make us care about any of these characters at all. The plot zigs and zags between Alex’s convoluted quest, Vincent and his motley crew of FBI investigators, and this corporate elite real estate trafficking ring, but it doesn’t take the time to tell us who these people are, what they want or why they’re doing any of this.
The original Belgian film made high-ranking government officials the villains, but wealthy businesspeople as powerful and depraved sexual predators is much more American, and the mother/son conspiracy calls to mind the terrible twosome of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. Not that “Memory” manages to pull off any particularly trenchant social commentary such as this. The ugly digital cinematography and flat screenplay make this feel more like a very long episode of “Law & Order: SVU,” but you’d be more entertained checking out that long-running TV procedural than this film, which isn’t worth remembering in the least.
1½ stars out of 4
Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Rated R for violence, some bloody images and language throughout.