Implausible ‘Memory’ is still oddly enjoyable

Special to The Times

A mysterious South American powder causes powerful hallucinations that may actually be genuine links to memories of the user’s genetic ancestors. No, it’s not a tabloid cover story on young Hollywood, it’s just another day for a dashing medical researcher played by Billy Zane. Right from the first shots of Zane, with the usually bald actor sporting what may be the hardest-working hairpiece of all time, it becomes apparent that “Memory” is a film not afraid to flirt with the flagrantly silly.

Director Bennett Davlin, adapting his novel with co-screenwriter Anthony Badalucco, is somehow able to find the balance between taking the material seriously -- Zane’s new memories put him on the trail of a child-snatching serial killer -- and recognizing the inherent ridiculousness of its plotting.

Zane and costar Dennis Hopper seem to be performing from within quotation marks, often looking as if they are each struggling to maintain a straight face. Ann-Margret brings an unexpected lightness as one of Zane’s friends, and she pulls off a series of enigmatically meaningful close-ups -- all is revealed in the end -- with flair. The oddball cast, also including Tricia Helfer and Terry Chen, is if nothing else a real boon to those who play variations on the “Six Degrees” game -- not many other films can so swiftly connect “Giant,” “The Swinger,” “Titanic” and “Battlestar Galactica.”


Early on, Zane’s character marks “pick up scuba gear” off a to-do list, and not long after -- voila! -- he needs to go for a dive in a mysterious lake. Thank goodness for an organized hero. It’s this kind of willful wackiness that makes “Memory” oddly enjoyable at its most implausible.

“Memory.” MPAA rating: R for language and frightening images. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. Exclusively at Laemmle’s Monica, 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica, (310) 394-9741.