The casting of the wrong actor in the lead role will most definitely affect the overall quality of a movie, regardless of how compelling or intriguing the story’s premise or concept is. Now, I know that might seem like an obvious fact, but in the case of the crime drama Memory, the casting of actor Liam Neeson reflects a rather funny, or peculiar, set of circumstances. Since first starring in the action-thriller Taken, Neeson has fallen into an utterly repetitive career rut. Nearly all of his subsequent films have depicted skilled warrior protagonists , taking out the “bad guys,” with stoic and steely purpose. Aside from the very first Taken, I honestly could not tell all of the other movies apart from the next.
Even at the age of 69, Neeson is back again portraying another armed fighter with “a specific skill set,” determined to rid the world of more evil doers. Now granted, a seemingly intriguing Belgian novel titled De Zaak Alzheimer and its first movie adaptation, Belgian film The Alzheimer Case, have both inspired this Hollywood remake. I have actually never read the novel, nor have I watched the original movie, but I do find the premise rather fascinating. I can also see that these foundations have all of the makings of an exciting dramatic-thriller, in the hands of the right director, and starring the perfect actor.
However, I feel that in casting Liam Neeson, the filmmakers behind this adaptation have done these story ideas a great disservice. As reflected by some of his acting in the movie, Liam seems to be mostly “phoning in” his performance. And on top of that, the writers, who developed this version of the story, have chosen the path of least resistance, by falling into the usual formulas that have permeated and infected Neeson’s career for the past thirteen years.
Memory tells the story of professional hit man Alex (Neeson), and follows the killer during the last days of his career. On the verge of retirement, Alex very warily accepts one final group of related assignments. Afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, Alex figures he has just this one major job left in him, and hopes to get the mission accomplished before his conditions worsens. However, after discovering the particulars of the case and whom he must eliminate, Alex bails on the job, much to the chagrin of his clients. This further complicates his retirement plans, as both his jilted clients, and their various criminal associates, along with law enforcement are all looking to take him out. In order to clear his name and his conscience, Alex decides to go after the criminals who should’ve never hired him in the first place.
With an adapted screenplay by Dario Scardapane, director Martin Campbell, a filmmaker who has also fallen into a rut lately, delivers a movie that is moderately interesting, sometimes exciting, but overall frustrating and disappointing. The movie is watchable and enjoyable enough to view at home, but the flawed pacing, and formulaic elements do not make this latest Campbell film a must see in the theater. What is most frustrating is that, despite the movies intriguing inclusion of Alzheimer’s disease, as the protagonist’s ticking time bomb of a weakness, the end result is ultimately flat and disappointing.
Now, I have already stated my gripes about Neeson, so I will leave my criticism at that. As for the rest of the main cast, which includes Guy Pearce, Monica Bellucci, Harold Torres, Taj Atwal, and Ray Stevenson, the actors are all fine in their respective roles. However, the weak writing and development of their characters fail to make their contributions impactful.
And this movie certainly fails to deliver its intended impact. As I previously stated, I do find the themes and overall premise intriguing enough that I would either love to read the book or watch the Belgian movie. Memory definitely feels like another example of Hollywood’s bastardization of what seems to be awesome source material. And as for Liam Neeson, I strongly suggest that he put his “specific skillset” character to rest, and do something more exciting and dynamic. I don’t know if I can possibly take another movie where he is portraying the same tiresome action hero.