Memory (Review): I Wish This Was Better

It’s a new Liam Neeson action movie. You know the drill with these by now. But I’ve got to talk about Memory anyway, so read on for my thoughts…

Liam Neeson plays Alex Lewis: a hitman with Alzheimer’s. Guy Pearce is FBI agent Vincent Serra. Their common enemy: criminals who threaten a 13 year old witness to illicit activities. But the FBI also tracks Alex once he starts a murdering spree around El Paso.

Gonna get right into this: Memory had a cool premise. It was not executed well. Its plodding pace left me more bored than invested. The entire second act felt notably dragged out.

I didn’t hate Memory, but it didn’t much entertain me either. It felt like an overextended episode of a random cop show, with a bigger budget. And I’ve seen plenty of cop shows with tighter scripts than this…

Memory lacked a compelling central focus. It split a near even amount of time between Liam Neeson and Guy Pearce, when the FBI bits should have been a B-plot (or cut altogether). The “hit-man with Alzheimer’s” angle was actually unique and intriguing, unlike the “FBI investigates criminals” story.

The primary investigation was interesting but lacked a sense of urgency. The FBI took its sweet time which, funnily enough, was remarked upon in one of Memory’s best sequences. The FBI’s investigation was all the more redundant because Alex did their work for them! The law just followed his breadcrumbs and clues. So they were made to look like fools. I reiterate: if you cut out the FBI plot altogether, Memory‘s story essentially remains the same– just less bloated.

I also take issue with how strongly this plot pivots around the child I mention up top. For one thing: she’s barely in the film. She’s just a plot device to make Alex and Serra fight harder for justice. That’s bad enough, but it rings all the more hollow ’cause Alex and Serra hardly knew the girl! Serra only met her a couple of times, and their relationship was based on pity. Alex knew her for all of 15 seconds… Yet both these men put their careers and lives on the line for her.

Their choices make no logical sense– especially Alex’s. You could argue that, because Alex knew he had Alzheimer’s, he wanted to do one good thing while he was still able. But that’s just me reading between the lines. Alex’s main motivator seemed to be righteous anger towards his employers for sending him after a child.

Memory intriguingly critiqued the American legal system’s reluctance to investigate the rich. Its script argues that the government endorses justice against Mexican organized crime, yet leaves its American branches unimpeded. It cynically posits that vigilante justice is more effective than the legal system. I don’t know how statistically probable it is for rich Americans in organized crime to be persecuted. But the conversations on this topic made me pause to think about it.

David Tattersall’s cinematography was serviceable. There were few scenes which visually stood out, although there were some notably pretty shots (like in the pool set).

There wasn’t near as much action in Memory as I’d believed. That’s marketing’s fault for setting my expectations badly… but I was still disappointed. What about the action we got though? It was alright. There was a satisfying level of brutality in multiple scenes. Though most moments felt cookie-cutter.

Liam Neeson intimidating a badguy in Memory
(Photo Credit: Open Road Films)

Liam Neeson’s played this character in most of his movies for the past decade: he’s the grizzled, no-nonsense badass on a crusade. Except he’s a tad more vulnerable this time around, due to his illness. The Alzheimer’s arguably makes Alex scarier because he’s a trained killer who’s not in his right mind! Neeson’s charisma, while better than his co-stars’, isn’t enough to carry Memory through its weak story.

Guy Pearce did his best with the material. I liked his character enough to root for him, but wasn’t especially invested in his arc. Actually, I can’t say he had much of an arc. Serra began the film a broken man with a vendetta and ended it there as well.

Speaking of said vendetta: we don’t learn key backstory details for Alex OR Serra till Memory‘s second half. And the stuff about Alex is nearly throwaway! It’s not as if these elements were part of some big twist which the writers purposely hid from us. The exposition was just pushed aside for no reason I could see. That’s unfortunate, as it would have helped to tell us some things earlier– particularly for Serra. I would have cared for his character if I better understood him before the ending.

Serra wasn’t even Memory‘s most compelling agent! Hugo (Harold Torres) was far and away better written than the others. He had a tragic backstory, the best reason to want justice against the criminals, and did most of the investigative work anyway! Torres did a great job here, and proved the stand-out cast member for this critic.

Monica Bellucci played the villain of Memory: Davana Sealman. She was… meh. We don’t learn a lot about her, or her motivations. Yes– we discover why she did some things. Her reasons were supposed to make her somewhat sympathetic (I think?) But we only see her do a few villainous things in the whole movie– and they were just orders for other people to carry out. Sealman sorta creeped me out (in a good way) but she was a weak main antagonist. Doesn’t help that she was in only a few scenes.

All the other main actors (Taj Atwal, Ray Fearon, and Ray Stevenson) did alright in their roles. Their characters were thinly written though. I have little else to say about them.

On the whole: I wasn’t a fan of this film. It started out OK, but lost me near entirely by the end. Memory had its moments, but they were fewer and further between than they ought to have been. Because this plot had potential to be something objectively cool! But, alas, it didn’t deliver.

Memory isn’t abysmal, but Don’t Bother with this one.

What’s the best “aging grizzled badass” role Liam Neeson’s ever done? What did you think of Memory? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *