As someone who hasn’t seen every Liam Neeson actioner that seems to be released every few months, I gotta ask one question: Are most of them about a lethal, quasi-senile old man who tries to get out of the dangerous profession he’s in, only to get dragged back and forced to go on a killing spree where he unravels some big-ass conspiracy?
Just a couple months ago, I saw everybody’s favorite Irish sexagenarian badass play a government fixer with a mad case of OCD, piling up bodies as he exposes a secret FBI operation, in the shoddy Blacklight. And, now; here he is, once again busting caps even though he should be chilling in a gotdamn retirement community, in the baffling-as-hell Memory.
Neeson gets into lone-assassin mode as Alex Lewis, a veteran hit man with advanced Alzheimer’s. Despite telling his contact that he’s getting out of the game (he fails to tell him about the Alzheimer’s), he gets roped into going to Texas in pursuit of a couple targets, one of them a teenage Mexican girl whose father pimped her out to rich white dudes.
Even though this hired gun doesn’t mind taking out a guy in front of the dude’s ailing mama, he draws the line at the kiddies. Of course, once he refuses to do the job and a contract’s put out on him, he goes on a murdering tear, hunting down the upper-class sick puppies who don’t mind dabbling in child sex trafficking.
Based on the Belgian novel De zaak Alzheimer (which was made into a 2003 Belgian movie of the same name), Memory has Neeson playing another gun-wielding white knight, a killer with an old-school moral code. This has been the man’s stock-in-trade ever since he went on a rampage looking for his daughter in the first Taken.
But Neeson isn’t the only one out for vengeance. We also have Guy Pearce, slapping on a Texas accent, as an FBI agent who’s also looking to get rid of child sex traffickers — albeit in a more legal way — and eventually finds an ally in Neeson’s slowly withering gunman.
TV writer Dario Scardapane (The Punisher) basically crafts a bullet-riddled revenge flick for those who love to see obnoxious jerks get theirs. Neeson spends most of the movie taking out assholes, while Pearce deals with them on a bureaucratic level. This all leads to a spacey, miscast Monica Bellucci, who plays a powerful, blackmailing real-estate mogul like she’s a soothsayer in a Medieval epic.
At nearly two hours, Memory gives you a lot to wade through. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean most of it is, well, memorable. The action is stale. The plot is needlessly convoluted. Nearly everyone’s a dickhead. It’s kinda sad that something this pitiful and unremarkable comes from Martin Campbell, the once-mighty director who gave us the 007 blockbusters GoldenEye and Casino Royale before taking on the disaster that was The Green Lantern.
Nevertheless, if you just wanna see Liam Neeson’s damn-near-elderly ass pull out his strap and lay them bustas down (as the late, great Nate Dogg would say), this one will tide you over until the next one comes.
“Memory” is in theaters Friday.