Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Noirish ‘Memory’ is a cut above the average Liam Neeson action flick

Michael O’Sullivan

THE WASHINGTON POST – There’s a sameness to many of the roles Liam Neeson takes these days. The Oscar-nominated star of Schindler’s List has lately become more associated with action thrillers in which he plays a certain type: an emotionally damaged, perhaps even demon-driven anti-hero/loner, an ethically compromised past, grief or some other psychic pain whose quest for redemption has turned him into an avenging angel.

The quality of these films fluctuates between satisfying and disappointing, for the same reason. Because Neeson is so adept at rendering this stock character, he doesn’t always work very hard at it.

In plot, at least, Memory is no exception. Based on the 1985 novel De Zaak Alzheimer by Belgian writer Jef Geeraerts and its 2003 Belgian film adaptation, The Memory of a Killer, Neeson’s latest genre exercise centres on a hit man with dementia who suddenly sprouts a conscience when one of the targets he’s been hired to kill turns out to be a 13-year-old girl. And yet Memory is a cut above average, for this sort of thing.

Memory feels more like film noir – deliciously dark, cynical and slightly amoral. Neeson, for one thing, isn’t really the good guy here, or really even the bad guy with a heart of gold. His Alex Lewis is a coldblooded killer. With one exception – the barely teenage (Mia Sanchez) Alex refuses to kill after he’s hired to kill a couple of people to cover up a child-exploitation ring – he has few qualms about whom he murders.

Memory is by no means a deep film. But there’s something here that lends the familiar proceedings a bittersweet aftertaste that lingers in the mind. That’s the film’s mix of moral ambiguity and the regret of someone for whom it’s too late to undo the past, but not perhaps to rectify the present, even when the law can’t.