Memory Synopsis: When Alex (Liam Neeson), an expert assassin, refuses to complete a job for a dangerous criminal organization, he becomes a target. FBI agents (Guy Pearce and Taj Atwal) and Mexican intelligence (Harold Torres) are brought in to investigate the trail of bodies, leading them closer to Alex. With the crime syndicate and FBI in hot pursuit, Alex has the skills to stay ahead, except for one thing: he is struggling with severe memory loss, affecting his every move. Alex must question his every action and whom he can ultimately trust.
A hitman on the run tries to keep up with his fading mental state in Memory. Pairing an inventive premise alongside stalwart director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale and GoldenEye) is one way to revitalize Liam Neeson’s decaying action track record. While Neeson remains a sturdy enough presence as an actor, his once-proud legacy as an action star has taken a backseat to a slew of uninspired fluff (Blacklight and The Marksman).
Memory isn’t without some welcomed improvements from Neeson’s played-out formula, but the changes are not enough. Part international crime drama, part assassin story, Memory delivers an overstuffed and banal effort that will quickly fade from viewers’ memory banks.
The promise for an assured actioner is certainly there. Seeing Neeson’s cold and calculated hitman Alex wrestle with his newfound morality and memory loss imbues some intriguing wrinkles into the all-too-familiar subgenre. Neeson continues to be adept at enriching his brand of everyman action heroes – while a capable supporting cast – featuring Guy Pearce, Monica Bellucci, and Taj Atwal – helps in personifying generic supporting players.
Unfortunately, Memory never decides what movie it wants to be. Like several direct-to-video actioners before, Neeson’s hitman spends a large chunk of the narrative sitting on the sidelines as international agents follow his trail. The decision to mold Neeson into a supporting player greatly restricts the dramatic potential of his arc, with Alex rarely getting a moment for meaningful reflection across his killing spree (the decision also reflects obvious budgetary restrictions).
In his place, Pearce and Atwal lead a dull international crime yarn. I am sure De zaak Alzheimer, the source material Memory is based on, presented merit in its mystery of a murdered young witness, but Scardapane’s script plays out like a poor man’s No Country for Old Men. Memory draws every character and their progression in uninteresting black and white terms. For an arc intended for intrigue, few moments present much excitement as the played-out formula runs its course.
Not even the assured touch of Martin Campbell can save Memory’s failing faculties. Campbell, who showcased a refreshing comeback in 2021’s so-so The Protege, finds his craftsmanship severely restricted by tight budgetary constraints. Each gunfight loses tension through a flurry of cheap, CGI blood splats, while Campbell’s few creative touches mostly take a backseat to a film stuck on visual autopilot. It’s a bummer to see Campbell and Neeson stuck in a project that feels beneath their distinctive talents.
Despite a few intriguing inclusions, Memory leaves a case of deja vu for viewers enduring another byproduct of Neeson’s generic formula. Let’s hope Neeson can retain his action movie fastball going forward.