I’m browsing movie times online and see a listing for Memory, the new Liam Neeson starrer opening this Friday in theaters. Fandango bills it as an “Action/Adventure, Suspense/Thriller.”
I nearly spit out my drink.
Dear reader, Memory is none of these things.
The only suspense the movie provides is whether I could finish writing this review before I forgot the film completely.
Lately, it seems like Liam Neeson stars in a new low-rent thriller just about every week. They keep coming at you with a fury the movies themselves never share. There’s so many of them, and they’re all such low quality that I set rules for these GLMBSs (Generic Liam Neeson Bullshit). It’s really just one rule: if it’s PG-13, it shan’t be seen.
Memory is rated R and is directed by Martin Campbell, who really is a journeyman director with a lot more misses than hits, but he did make two of the best James Bond films of the modern era, Goldeneye and Casino Royale, the latter of which opens with one of the greatest action sequences ever put on film. Between the rating and the director, I took a chance on the latest GLMBS.
I shouldn’t have.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Liam Neeson stars as a hitman (Stop) who goes on one last hit (Stop!) but can’t finish the job because it involves killing a kid (Stop!!), and that’s the one thing he won’t do (Stop!!!). So his employers turn on him and he turns on them (Seriously, Stop). Oh, but there is a twist. Neeson’s character suffers from Alzheimer’s, but it’s the movie version of Alzheimer’s that only flares up when convenient for the plot.
Actually, there’s quite a bit more. You see, Guy Pearce is here too as an FBI agent on Neeson’s trail, and the movie is just as much about him as it is Neeson. Well, it’s not really about him because his character is so thinly written and his actions so ineffectual you wonder why so much time is spent on him. So really, Guy Pearce’s character is just in a lot more scenes than expected.
There’s a bunch of characters and plot crammed in here and the movie tries for a mystery vibe with who is trying to kill whom and why. There’s a moment about an hour in where I thought it was going to do what the best B movies do, sneak in some biting commentary along with the genre expectations. This glimmer of hope extrapolated before I could contain it. I thought, that’s why an actor of Guy Pearce’s caliber is in this dreck: The movie’s more than just a boring genre exercise; It’s actually going to be about something. Then I remembered Guy Pearce was in Bloodshot with Vin Diesel. And with that realization went all my hopes that this movie would be smarter than it seemed.
To be sure, Memory introduces whisps of themes about one-percenters, their above-the-law status, privately owned border detention facilities, aging, human trafficking, the failure of our justice system, etc., but it’s not smart enough to really do anything with any of it. Instead, these themes just intrude on the base pleasures of the hitman movie. It interferes so much that the movie drags on for another half hour after the “big” action finale, limping along as if it were saying something important, tying up loose ends that the filmmakers seem to think are oh so important (…they are not). And then it just ends on a note of tired vigilante justice.
With only two half-hearted action sequences, Memory really isn’t even an action movie, nor is it a thriller or anything else Fandango assigned to it. Actually, I don’t know what it is, and I’m convinced the filmmakers don’t either. It’s simply a drag. My advice? Forget this Memory.