You know…familiarity isn’t all THAT bad…
Yup, the Liam Neeson action/thriller train continues today with Memory. While it does follow several of the beats that you’d expect from other recent entries , with some solid direction and a leading man that’s actually invested in the character we actually get something a little grittier and certainly a little more interesting then you’d expect at first glance.
An assassin-for-hire finds that he’s become a target after he refuses to complete a job for a dangerous criminal organization.
A remake of the 2003 Belgian film The Memory of a Killer; this film which gets translated to the US/Mexican border manages to keep a compelling layer of grit on it as Guy Pearce is seemingly having fun embracing the sweaty unwashed nature of playing a federal agent who tends to colour outside the lines while Neeson manages to bounce between the kick ass killing machine that we all know so well and a man at a crossroads trying to repent for a lifetime of crimes.
While director Martin Campbell will never be accused of having a diverse career in the worlds of storytelling, the reality is that he has a formula that he knows how to execute rather well. Even in the moments when the narrative gets a little over-bloated and a little too complex, we’ve still got a slick action ride that never gets boring and is entertaining to watch. Sure the subject matter gets a little heavy at times but the takes here actually feel somewhat genuine rather than being opaque and vague.
Both Campbell and Neeson play this one on the edge, it’s supposed to be frenetic and chaotic as Neeson’s hitman Alex Lewis has to stake his claim to a little bit of humanity in the face of him losing his mind. Even as he knocks on the door of 70 years young, he still has the gravitas to pull off these types of roles, almost in line with something like how Robert Mitchum had the last 1/3rd of his career unfold. While he may have lost a step or two, he can still pull of playing the kind of guy that you just don’t want to mess with.
Meanwhile Guy Pearce feels honest and invigorated here as the other side of the coin and our FBI man looking for justice inside a bent and corrupt system. He plays it as ‘world-weary’ but it works as we see a guy looking to do the right thing.
Sadly some of the supporting cast like Monica Bellucci and Ray Stevenson don’t get all that much to do as the story unfolds.
Ultimately, while Memory could have been more, it actually does enough to make it a slightly above average entry into the Liam Neeson thriller canon as it’s got some solid action and a compelling leading man performance as he’s doing more than trying to chew the scenery on this one. Both Campbell and Neeson come off here as guys trying to give one last quality effort before they call it a day, and while we may have stronger memories of films that both men have worked on, this Memory is close enough.