REVIEW: To be old—saggy skinned, laboured breath and an awkward walk—and vulnerable on screen is dreaded by a lot more than people are ready to admit. Not Liam Neeson though, the Oscar-nominated actor has touched the zenith of his occupation with neo-noirs, such as the ‘Taken’ series, ‘Schindler’s List’, among many others. It, therefore, may appear that Neeson has gotten too comfortable with this subgenre and, at times, this lack of wanting to explore comes off as indolent.
In Martin Campbell’s ‘Memory’, Neeson’s elusive Alex wants out from his decades-long career as a professional hit man. “Men like us, they don’t retire,” his boss coos; a quasi-successful attempt at pulling him back. With no liberating choice in clear sight, he jumps back to work. But, a little girl’s the next target and suddenly his buried sense of righteousness comes to the surface. “I don’t kill children. Ask the contract dogs to call it off,” he declares in his deathly voice, emoting urgency through those stone-cold eyes. Neeson pulls a classic action-hero Neeson for the most part.
The actor’s real work—for the lack of a better word—begins when his newfound moral compass pushes him to befriend three authority-bashing federal agents: angst-filled Vincent (Guy Pearce), Linda (Taj Atwal), and their unwelcome Mexican counterpart Hugo Marquez (Harold Torres). An ethically hollow character of a man—grappling with advanced Alzheimers—seeks (and finds) comfort in the meek arms of genre-veteran Neeson. In all honesty, despite the track ringing all too familiar in your ears, this character-driven film has what its forerunners didn’t—a raw, vulnerable Hollywood star on the cusp of retirement.
Speaking of age-appropriate mannerisms, acing the adage of a corporate honcho-turned-child trafficking racketeer is the orgasmic-toned Monica Belluci, as Davana Sealman. The Italian bella signora commands attention with her timid mein and a wardrobe that screams of dark elegance. Touché!
Granted, in Campbell’s ‘Memory’, all those boiling filmmaking instincts—the cinematic high—that directors keep raving about, to spin a masterpiece out of a foreign tale, have been brushed aside. The little girl in question may have popped open a wide range of emotions from within the deepest recesses of their hearts, but with little to no time spent with the kid, it is slightly hard to stomach the quadruplet’s unwavering determination to avenge her death. Sure, the backstory lays pretty solid grounds for that level of mayhem to ensue, but, frankly, when has any movie rendered relevance simply based on haphazard flashbacks?
‘Memory’ is an adequate reminder of the anti-hero-romanticism track that Liam Neeson has glamourised in Hollywood over the past few decades. In it, though, he allows decay and honesty to take over pseudo-machismo. And that memory will forever be etched in our minds.