FILM REVIEW — Liam Neeson steps up in “Memory”
Published 12:12 am Saturday, April 30, 2022
Open Road Entertainment
Directed by Martin Campbell
Starring Liam Neeson, Guy Pearce, Monica Bellucci, Taj Atwal and Harold Torres
2 ½ Stars
Liam Neeson has built the second half of his career by playing variations on the same character — aging tough guys who are looking for redemption before shuffling off this mortal coil.
Some of these movies have been thrilling bits of action cinema. Some have been mindless exercises in B Moviemaking. No matter which, audiences seem to love Neeson’s films, while critics have been lukewarm at best.
I’m pleasantly surprised by the actor’s latest film, “Memory,” in which Neeson plays an aging assassin suffering from declining mental abilities. He has trouble remembering things, so he’s taken to writing notes on his arm in Sharpie in order to jog his memory.
Things snap a little more clearly into focus when he’s hired to kill some people involved with a child trafficking ring. The assassin has no problem with this assignment until he’s ordered to kill a 13-year-old girl who was forced into sex work.
Our hero (?) draws the line at killing children, so he sets out to kill the people behind the crimes, all while leaving clues for three FBI agents (Guy Pearce, Taj Atwal and Harold Torres). He’d prefer for the police to mete out justice, but he is smart enough to realize he’s more capable of setting things right.
On the surface, “Memory” is just another by-the-numbers action-thriller. We get chases and gunfights — all of the bread-and-butter elements you’ve come to expect from a Liam Neeson movie.
In the hands of director Martin Campbell, these elements are quite good, making the film far more enjoyable than many of Neeson’s latest movies.
The other new element is the addition of the Alzheimer’s subplot. This gives Neeson some nice acting moments, where he’s part killer and part lost old man struggling to remember what he’s doing.
It makes for a nuanced performance, although it might give the audience whiplash. It’s tough to swallow this lethal killer in one scene turning into a whimpering invalid in the next.
Still, Neeson knows what he’s doing and makes it all very watchable. It helps that he’s surrounded by a solid supporting cast, and once again, a director who knows his way around an action thriller. I mean, the man directed James Bond movies, for Heaven’s sake.
Ultimately, “Memory” is still just an exercise in genre filmmaking. It’s far more concerned with the gun fights than in dealing honestly with the trauma of a man losing his mental faculties. Still, it’s a well-crafted thriller, and one of the better examples of Neeson’s recent movies.
I suspect tat his fans will love it, and even some of those cranky old movie critics will have fun at “Memory.”
Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Orange Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at email@example.com.