AP

Review: Liam Neeson kills down ‘Memory’ lane

Apr 27, 2022, 11:55 AM | Updated: 12:33 pm

This image released by Open Road Films/Briarcliff Entertainment shows Sigal Diamant, left, and Guy ...

This image released by Open Road Films/Briarcliff Entertainment shows Sigal Diamant, left, and Guy Pearce in a scene from "Memory." (Rico Torres/Road Films -Briarcliff Entertainment via AP)

(Rico Torres/Road Films -Briarcliff Entertainment via AP)

“Memory” is an interesting title for the latest Liam Neeson thriller. Do you remember the last Liam Neeson thriller? Or the one before that? Who was it that got took in that one? It began getting hard to tell these films from one another years ago, and yet they’ve kept coming. “Key & Peele” only seems more prophetic for making the actor’s name plural. “Liam Neesons” is right. He contains, and kills, multitudes.

“Memory,” which opens in theaters Friday, doesn’t much alter the formula but makes for a brutal and bleak variation on the Liam Neeson theme. It casts a broader, more interwoven noir tapestry set around the Texas borderlands, with an ensemble cast including Guy Pearce, Monica Bellucci, and Ray Stevenson. If you come to “Memory” hoping Neeson is going to growl one-liners like “Commit THAT to memory!” or “If memory serves me correctly, you’re toast!” — you may be surprised to find a movie less interested in such action-star heroics than it is something murkier and more cynical.

Does that make it good? Well, I wouldn’t go that far. The filmmaking, by Martin Campbell, the British director of thrillers both glossy (“Casino Royale”) and gritty (“Edge of Darkness”), lacks the texture and sense of place that could have made “Memory” (much of which was shot in Bulgaria) something more than a throwaway. But the performers — Neeson and particularly Pearce — don’t phone anything in.

Neeson plays an El Paso, Texas, assassin named Alex Lewis who tilts more toward bad guy territory than most of the actor’s protagonists. Of course, though, Alex has a moral compass that won’t tolerate certain things. He smashes one guy’s head against the bar for his rude behavior toward a prostitute. And he won’t kill kids. When Alex refuses to kill a 13-year-old girl (Mia Sanchez), a crime syndicate seeking to cover up a child trafficking ring comes after him. At the same time, Alex is beginning to experience early onset Alzheimer’s. That, curiously, only seldom affects his mission to protect the girl and bring down the syndicate, but it does make Alex even bolder; his life is fading away, anyway.

At the same time, the FBI agent Vincent Serra (Pearce) is trying to bring down the ring and is watching over the very same teenage girl, but his higher-ups keep pushing him toward other cases. Pearce’s very presence in a memory-loss thriller is a nod to “Memento.” In one scene, when Neeson writes clues on his forearm to help himself remember, you half expect Pearce to grab the pen and give him a few pointers. There’s much that’s familiar in “Memory,” a remake of the 2003 Belgian thriller “Memory of a Killer.”

Alex and Vincent form a loose partnership as two men trying to carry out one act of justice in a place without it. If the Liam Neeson thriller has cast Neeson as a kind of globe-trotting vigilante and defender of justice in a fallen world, it’s fitting that he should make his way to the U.S.-Mexican border. Credit “Memory” for summoning outrage for the plight of young Mexican immigrants along the border.

Pearce, sweaty and grungy, steadies “Memory”; it’s his film as much as Neeson’s. But if anything, they seem like actors who ought to be in something better than this, an often slipshod movie populated largely by stock and half-formed characters — like Bellucci’s somewhat ridiculous millionaire, an El Paso mogul pulling strings to cover for her son. There’s just enough here to imagine a better, more memorable iteration of “Memory.”

“Memory,” an Open Road release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for for violence, some bloody images and language throughout. Running time: 114 minutes. Two stars out of four.

___

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

southern Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly...

Associated Press

Trial of a southern Arizona rancher charged in fatal shooting of unarmed migrant goes to the jury

Closing arguments were made against a southern Arizona rancher accused of shooting an undocumented migrant on his land to death on Thursday.

3 hours ago

Donald Trump's hush money trial: 12 jurors selected...

Associated Press

Although 12 jurors were picked for Donald Trump’s hush money trial, selection of alternates is ongoing

A jury of 12 people was seated Thursday in former President Donald Trump's hush money trial. The proceedings are close to opening statements.

5 hours ago

A anti-abortion supporter stands outside the House chamber, Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at the Capit...

Associated Press

Democrats clear path to bring proposed repeal of Arizona’s near-total abortion ban to a vote

Democrats in the Arizona Senate cleared a path to bring a proposed repeal of the state’s near-total ban on abortions to a vote.

1 day ago

Most Americans are sleepy new Gallup poll finds...

Associated Press

Most Americans say they don’t get enough sleep, according to new Gallup poll

A new Gallup poll found that most Americans are sleepy — or, at least, they say they are. Multiple factors play into this.

3 days ago

Near-total abortion ban in Arizona dates back to Civil War era...

Associated Press

Near-total abortion ban dates back to 1864, during the Civil War, before Arizona was a state

The near-total abortion ban resurrected last week by the Arizona Supreme Court dates to 1864, when settlers were encroaching on tribal lands.

3 days ago

Tracy Toulou...

Associated Press

How to tackle crime in Indian Country? Empower tribal justice, ex-Justice Department official says

A recently retired director of the Justice Dept. says the federal government hasn't given tribal justice systems equal recognition.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

Review: Liam Neeson kills down ‘Memory’ lane