• Nate Adams

'Memory' review: Liam Neeson clunker ain't memorable


Courtesy of Open Road Films

 

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Liam Neeson plays a hired gun who gets embroiled in some type of conspiracy/cover-up and goes on a cross-country mission to amend his grievances. Fourteen years removed from Neeson’s action rebirth “Taken,” the actor’s latest smash and grab “Memory,” directed by Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale” and last summer’s hidden gem “The Protégé”), tries tweaking the action formula in its favor, but not much would make this utterly terrible movie go down any smoother.


Too bad Neeson’s “very particular set of skills” hardly come into play as his character is dealing with a form of dementia while trying to thwart a child trafficking ring overseen by a sniveling (and completely stranded) Monica Bellucci. The movie wants to be serious (don’t they all) but Campbell steers the film so far into absurdity, it becomes an unintentional laugh fest. To his credit, Neeson looks thrilled to go along for the ride even if his character motivations (and Irish accent) never add up. For those keeping track at home, this is the fifth Neeson actioner since the pandemic started and each, aside from the tongue and cheekiness of “The Ice Road,” have been, er, not good.


Neeson plays Alex, one of those contract killers who doesn’t have a moral code of ethics, he just shoots first and asks questions later. That is until his target involves a child, and he refuses the bid whilst on the run from Vincent (Guy Pearce – sporting a thick mustache and trying to leverage emotion), an FBI agent in charge of a child exploitation task force. Bellucci plays an El-Paso real estate mogul with shady business dealings and hires Alex to eliminate some dirty laundry, including one of her son’s business partners and a 13-year-old girl named Beatriz (Mia Sanchez) who was trafficked into the US from Mexico.


All this is happening as Alex battles early onset Alzheimer’s that’s hardly explained nor used for anything other than a cheap plot device. Which is a bummer because mental illness, child trafficking and the exploitation of those across the border could make for effective and compelling storytelling, but Campbell, reminding us he made “Green Lantern,” seems content with going through the motions. There’s no impressive action sequences, no stakes worth investing in, and no conversation starters aside from another lame Neeson vehicle that stalls immediately out of the gate. Stick a fork in it.


Grade: D-


MEMORY opens in theaters Friday, April 29th.