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"MEMORY"
(2022) (Liam Neeson, Guy Pearce) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Dramatic Thriller: A hitman who's suffering from memory issues and law enforcement agents separately try to find those behind a child prostitution ring
PLOT:

Alex Lewis (LIAM NEESON) is a hitman who's thinking of retiring, partly due to suffering from memory issues related to Alzheimer's. His breaking point occurs when he's assigned to kill 13-year-old Beatriz (MIA SANCHEZ) whose father is actively prostituting her. That child prostitution ring has drawn the interest of FBI agents Vincent Serra (GUY PEARCE) and Linda Amisted (TAJ ATWAL) who are working alongside Mexican agent Hugo Marquez (HAROLD TORRES) trying to crack that and find out who's behind it.

As they do, their investigation and Alex's actions to find and kill those responsible cause their paths to cross, eventually involving local El Paso detective Danny Mora (RAY STEVENSON), successful businesswoman Davana Sealman (MONICA BELLUCCI), and others.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

Beyond the obviously very important work of the autonomic nervous system (that controls the heart, lungs, and other vital parts of being alive), one's ability to think and tap into memories is the next most important and the key to being human. After all, if you can't remember who you or others are, to eat, and so on, that's pretty much game over. All of which is why diseases such as Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are so insidious.

Of course, Hollywood has tapped into such material as fodder for many movies, mostly dramas such as "The Father," "The Notebook," "Still Alice" and so on. Occasionally, though, such memroy maladies will make their way into other cinematic genres resulting in films such as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and the equally brilliant but quite different "Memento."

The latter starred Guy Pearce as a man who's trying to solve his wife's murder. The only problem is he has no long-term memory and thus must tattoo clues on his body lest he forget them. Oh, and the film starts at the end of the story and works its way back to the beginning.

That film came to mind -- no pun intended -- while watching the dramatic thriller "Memory." But rather than playing the man with the mental obstacle, Pearce plays an FBI agent who's trying to crack a child prostitution ring. That ends up bringing him into the vicinity of a professional hitman (Liam Neeson) who's starting to suffer from the effects of Alzheimer's, a family trait he shares with his institutionalized brother.

Neeson's Alex has been ordered to kill -- among others -- a 13-year-old girl (Mia Sanchez) whose father had been prostituting her and is now under child protection services. Those connected to such depravity worry the girl might name names and thus want her offed. But our hitman has morals -- don't they always in movies -- and won't kill kids.

All of which means he's going to leave a new wake of bodies in his trail as he tries to find out who's responsible and make them pay. The only problem -- beyond them wanting him dead -- is his worsening memory issue, all of which has him writing pertinent info and intel on his arms while questioning what's stored in his head.

What's most surprising in this film from director Martin Campbell and screenwriter Jef Geeraerts (who's adapted the book by Jef Geeraerts) is that it doesn't play up such obstacles in any sort of creative, imaginative, or yes, memorable way. In other words, it's never enough of an obstacle that the resourceful hitman can't accomplish his goals, some of which would be next to impossible for someone with full control of their mental faculties, let alone anyone with diminished abilities.

That results in a rather rote thriller that has way too many moving parts -- and secondary characters (played by the likes of Monica Bellucci, Ray Stevenson, Harold Torres, Taj Atwal, etc. -- that and who never add up to what was presumably initially envisioned -- a thriller with more depth and thematic elements than your usual genre offering.

None of which is meant to imply it's bad, as the performances are generally good, the story is solid enough (despite offering nothing new), and the action is in line with what audiences have come to expect from this part of Neeson's career of playing the reluctant but efficient action character.

But the biggest issue is that it's instantly forgettable mere days after seeing it, while films like "Eternal Sunshine" and "Memento" are still knocking about in my noggin decades later. And for that, "Memory" rates as just a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed April 22, 2022 / Posted April 29, 2022


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