Directed by: Martin Campbell
Distributed by: Briarcliff Entertainment
Written by Patrick Hao
The logline for “Memory” seemed like it would be a remarkable step forward in this fifteen-year run of Liam Neeson action movies. So much of the Neeson’s recent run has defied plausibility as a 6’4’’ 60-something Irish man beating up people half his age, while having the flexibility of an antique grandfather clock. “Memory” is the first time where it seems that Neeson’s mortality becomes a pivotal plot point. That mixed with an actual steady hand director like Martin Campbell, the director of “Mask of Zorro” and “Casino Royale”, “Memory” felt like it would be a slam dunk. It is disappointing then that every element of the movie feels like everybody was sleepwalking through the motions.
Neeson plays Alex Lewis (one of my favorite tropes of these action movies are these nondescript names) an aged assassin willing to kill anyone on contract except for children. When he finds out his final contract involve him killing Beatriz Leon (Mia Sanchez), a teenaged victim of sexual trafficking who could implicate the powerful people who she was pimped out to, Lewis refuses and decides to go after the people who hired him instead. The one problem is that Alex Lewis is beginning to face cognitive decline which affects his abilities.
Meanwhile, good guy FBI agent Vincent Serra (Guy Pearce) is traying to navigate corruption as he also tries to bring the child sex traffickers to justice. It just so happens that maybe Lewis could present the possibility of extrajudicial justice that he cannot. Standing in their way is powerful real estate developer Davana Sealman (Monica Bellucci in a performance in which you can see her doing her taxes in her head).
“Memory” should be an interesting meditation of one’s mortality and misdeeds. Neeson is an actor that could pull off the dramatic heft. Campbell has also explored these themes in his recent films like “Edge of Darkness’ and “The Foreigner,” but this movie is everyone at the bottom of their game. Moments of Neeson dealing with his impairment are few and far between. And what surrounds those moments are uninteresting action beats and staid exposition scenes. Besides Neeson, Pearce, and a fun Ray Stevenson as local El Paso police officer, the supporting cast is a bunch of wooden actors forced to say wooden lines. The few moments of color comes from moments of unexpected brutality. Neeson makes action movies, but they rarely feel this violent.
When compared to Neeson’s recent action excursions feels more disappointing than usual due to the pedigree of the director and premise. Luckily for both the audiences and the people who made “Memory,” this film will itself be a distant memory.
“Memory” is in wide theatrical release.