The fascinating aspect of the new Liam Neeson thriller Memory is that you begin to forget about the story as it proceeds, so by the end you neither care about nor remember what the hell is going on. It’s like Memento, except you wish you’d forget you were watching a movie after 10 minutes and would move on to better, more memorable things.
Ironically, the movie co-stars Momento’s leading man Guy Pierce, though this time he is saddled with an utterly bland cop role with no distinguishing traits whatsoever aside from a bad haircut and a flat personality. Thankfully, Neeson gets the majority of the screen time, where he gets to play the same generic, emotionally flat kind of role he has been milking for the last 15 years, to increasingly dismal returns.
The only reason I decided to watch Memory–having passed on the last couple Liam Neeson thrillers–is that it is directed by Martin Campbell, the guy behind such sensational action movies as Goldeneye and Casino Royale. Could Campbell inject a jolt into the Liam Neeson badass-with-a-heart subgenre?
One would think, but the answer is hell no.
Oddly, and maybe it’s just that I stopped paying attention midway through, Campbell and screenwriter Dario Scardapane don’t really capitalize on the concept at hand. Lame action, nearly absent score, and poor forward momentum aside, the whole “assassin who turns good but who has deteriorating memory issues” rarely factors into the plot. In an alternative world, I envision a form of True Detective Season 3 only with more action, a film where an assassin stumbles forward even as he struggles to remember where he started from. He clings onto old memories but questions the present.
Of course, Memory isn’t that movie. It’s basically your standard Liam Neeson badass-with-a-heart movie, only where the protagonist forgot to take his pills that morning.
There’s very little if any to love about this movie. Neeson is a good actor when given the right material, but he needs to move on from these cash grab roles and challenge himself with something new. We’re a long way from the novelty of Taken, and Memory fails to elicit fond… memories… of that bygone era.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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