Review: Liam Neeson out for revenge? ‘Memory’ makes you want to forget about it

A man in a parking garage walks away from an explosion in the movie “Memory”
Liam Neeson in the movie “Memory.”
(Rico Torres / Open Road Films/Briarcliff Entertainment)

Back in 2001, Guy Pearce starred in Christopher Nolan’s “Memento,” a film about a man tracking down his wife’s killer while suffering from memory loss, using notes and tattoos on his body to remember clues in his search. In 2022, Pearce is co-starring in a film in which a contract killer who has early-onset Alzheimer’s uses similar methods in order to keep track of details. But that’s where the comparisons between “Memento” and Martin Campbell’s “Memory” end. The former was a groundbreaking neo-noir classic; the latter is best forgotten as soon as possible.

“Memory” is yet another entry in the Liam Neeson Gets Revenge subgenre, a sprawling body of work that sprang from the surprise success of the 2008 action-thriller “Taken.” You know the drill: A child or some other vulnerable person is threatened, Neeson’s character has got a very particular set of skills, rescue and/or vengeance ensues. That’s at least one of the plots of “Memory,” a tangled mess of intertwining storylines and two-dimensional characters.

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“Memory” is a remake of a 2003 Belgian crime thriller, “De zaak Alzheimer,” based on the book by Jef Geeraerts. Dario Scardapane adapted the screenplay, which is fairly faithful to the original. Neeson plays Alex Lewis, the aforementioned assassin with Alzheimer’s, who’s getting out of the game after one last gig. When he discovers one of his intended victims is a teenage girl, a victim of sex trafficking by her father (who was accidentally killed in an FBI raid), Alex not only backs out, he decides to go after everyone who hired him to kill the girl in the first place.


Simultaneously, the film follows the FBI agent from the raid, Vincent Serra (Pearce), who now feels guilty about killing the girl’s father and leaving her stuck in a detention center, about to be deported to Mexico. But Vincent’s got a lot more on his plate, as Alex the assassin starts stacking bodies around El Paso, working his way up a sex-trafficking food chain that leads to the top of a Texas corporate real estate firm, headed by (checks notes) Monica Bellucci?! She’s playing a mogul named Davana Sealman, who hired Alex through a middleman to cover up evidence of her terrible son’s wrongdoings.

“Memory” has a decent director in Campbell (“Casino Royale,” “Vertical Limit”) and a great cast (yes, that’s Ray Stevenson as a corrupt cop), but a crippling case of a bad script that can’t manage to make us care about any of these characters. The plot zigs and zags between Alex’s convoluted quest, Vincent and his motley crew of FBI investigators, and this corporate elite real estate trafficking ring, but doesn’t take the time to tell us who these people are, what they want or why they’re doing any of this.

The original Belgian film made high-ranking government officials the villains, but wealthy businesspeople as powerful and depraved sexual predators is much more American, and the mother/son conspiracy calls to mind the terrible twosome of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. Not that “Memory” intends any particularly trenchant social commentary such as this. The ugly digital cinematography and flat screenplay make this feel more like a very long episode of “Law & Order: SVU,” but you’d be more entertained checking out that long-running TV procedural than this film.

Katie Walsh is a Tribune News Service film critic.


In English and Spanish with English subtitles

Rating: R for violence, some bloody images and language throughout

Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Playing: Starts April 29 in general release