Memory Review: A forgettable entry in Neeson’s action portfolio
The latest action thriller starring Liam Neeson, Memory, might be a step up from previous failures, but isn’t that much of an improvement.
Memory, based on Jef Geeraerts’ novel De Zaak Alzheimer (The Alzheimer’s Case), sees Neeson play hitman Alex Lewis who finds himself on the run after he chooses not to complete his latest job as he also deals with his memory starting to fade. Outside of the memory loss, it’s the same kind of role Neeson’s been playing for the last couple of years, but there are some elements that make this action stint better than most of Neeson’s last few.
With a more notable director in Casino Royale’s Martin Campbell helming the film, the direction feels much stronger than more recent Neeson action movies. The action is more intense, bloodier, and shocking revitalizing Neeson as a bad ass. Memory’s opening also gives the film a great first impression with Alex’s first assassination catching you off guard in a thrilling way and the introduction to determined FBI agent Vincent (Guy Pearce) brings a welcomed grit as well as some surprising story turns. Even the idea of Alex suffering from memory loss presents some interesting possibilities with him having blackouts where he could’ve done something and not remembered it.
Unfortunately, Memory struggles to capitalize on its strong start and ends up being just another bland Neeson action movie. Although Memory’s action can feature some strong thrills and bloody kills, most of the film is focused on the convoluted mystery that connects Alex being on the run with Vincent and his team solving a conspiracy case. So, there are few thrills to keep your pulse racing and it eventually leads to the film’s pacing becoming a sluggish drag.
Although the performances and Campbell’s direction add some good charm to the characters, the script lacks the ability to give them the required depth to make their personal arcs and the central crime story impactful. It’s a real shame that the memory loss component to Alex’s character isn’t better utilized to create more of a morality struggle with the character. There are some attempts to use blackouts to make Alex more panicked about his worsening condition and create more of an emotional connection to his suffering. However, the film’s portrayal of this condition is really terrible as it just leads to some awkward stuttering from Neeson and some forced plot fixing in the film’s final act. Ultimately, this element of Alex’s character is just used to sew the final bits of the case together and it couldn’t be more unremarkable.
As for Vincent and his partners on the case, they too lack a consistently strong depth to make them or the case they’re solving remotely compelling. Frankly, the film’s central crime conspiracy is overcrowded with characters that mostly don’t matter and struggles to hold all its story threads together. It fails to make its main baddie even slightly interesting and showcases some of the most unsatisfying conclusions with its finale wrap-up. Basically, everything Vincent and his team does ends up being totally pointless and it’s frustrating how the film tries to make up for it with a lazy final shocker. It’s a conspiracy thriller story that lacks any real connective material and while Vincent and his small band of agents have enjoyable chemistry, that’s all they have and the way that the film just shoves in some emotional motivations to Vincent’s character is just completely botched character writing.
It’s admirable that Memory shows some potential in its story and action to be something more than just another Neeson-led action flick, but it’s not enough to make for anything more than just another forgettable action film in Neeson’s filmography.