Liam Neeson shreds repugnant human traffickers in a convoluted actioner with a sadly newsworthy narrative. Based on a Belgian novel and previous film adaptation, Memory follows a hit man with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease exacting vengeance for exploited girls. The film follows a trail of bullets and bodies across the border from Mexico to Texas. An overelaborate plot gets lost in the weeds but delivers knockout blows. Baddies get their comeuppance from a man with nothing to lose. A good supporting performance from Guy Pearce adds dramatic heft when the plot meanders.
Memory opens in Guadalajara, Mexico. Alex Lewis (Neeson) dispatches a cartel target with ruthless efficiency. His repertoire of violence has an assortment of brutal methods. Alex’s calm escape has a momentary hitch. He gets lost in a fog of uncertainty. Alex writes down key details on his forearm to stay on track. He tells his handler, Mauricio (Lee Boardman), that was the last job.
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In El Paso, Texas, FBI agent Vincent Serra (Pearce) leads a raid on a Mexican trafficker (Antonio Jaramillo). A teenage girl (Mia Sanchez) is rescued in the botched operation. Months of surveillance are wasted. Vincent’s furious boss (Ray Fearon) wants to shut down their task force. Vincent’s Mexican counterpart, Hugo Marquez (Harold Torres), doesn’t understand why they are giving up. Back in Guadalajara, Mauricio convinces Alex to stick around for a big payday. Several contracts have been ordered by a powerful real estate mogul (Monica Bellucci).
Facing a Moral Dilemma
Memory’s premise has a ruthless killer facing a moral dilemma. Alex has a line that cannot be crossed. The film explains the foundation for his boundary. This ethical stand connects Alex to Vincent. They are on opposite sides of the law but share a common goal. The difference is that Alex has no restraints. As Vincent and Hugo deal with bureaucracy, Alex delivers deadly justice with a grim satisfaction. The unspoken alliance between adversaries gets muddied as casualties rise.
Memory gets bogged down by too many trivial characters. The primary storyline is compelling. The film harnesses anger and rage against those willing to abuse the innocent. Memory loses steam when the protagonists bounce back and forth in wasted subplots. For example, Alex has several encounters with an escort (Stella Stocker) in scenes that show him being tough, valiant, and needing emotional support. That’s good exposition if those aspects of his personality weren’t already seen. It’s an unnecessary redundancy that slows down the pacing. There’s no need to constantly reinforce what we already know about the characters.
Well Done Fight Scenes
Open Road Films
Director Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, The Foreigner) is an action master with decades of blockbusters under his belt. He gives Liam Neeson realistic lethality. Alex is not a man in his prime. There’s no fluff to his beat-downs. He’s not spraying gunfire like a garden hose. Alex moves with a swift purpose and the fight scenes are jarring and well-done. I also got a kick out of Campbell referencing Memento, a Guy Pearce revenge classic where an amnesiac character uses tattoos and body notes to remember.
Memory should have been pared down to sharpen its focus. Monica Bellucci mystifies as the antagonist. Her motivations make no sense whatsoever. Memory has its flaws but works as an action film with a message. It shines a glaring spotlight on femicide in Mexico. Every day has tragic headlines of missing women and girls found dead. This abhorrent plague of trafficking and murder has to stop.
Memory is a production of Bear Pictures, Welle Entertainment, and Saville Productions. It will be released theatrically on April 29th from Briarcliff Entertainment and Open Road Films.
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About The Author
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Julian Roman has been with Movieweb for nearly twenty years. An avid film buff, he feels lucky to have interviewed and written extensively about Hollywood’s greatest talents. In his spare time he plays guitar, treasures good company, and always seeks new adventures.
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