Liam Neeson in Memory
Like many films during the COVID era, Memory, with the durable Liam Neeson starring, was consigned to cable (Prime Video, Netflix, Apple TV, Rowe, Redbox, Roku) instead of brick 'n' mortar theatres. The versatile star, now 70, exemplifies two rare points for first-tier movie talent: He seeks to 'play his age' rather than much younger; and he plays Alex, an accomplished though reluctant assassin, with encroaching Alzheimer's, doing so with subtlety and believability. He employs pills and mnemonic tactics to stay his forgetfulness.
Guy Pearce and Monica Bellucci also star, but this discussion concerns Liam Neeson and his choices as an actor.
Hollywood has always steered clear of age, more so with females than males, but taking a stand for playing one's vrai years, especially for a bankable star like Neeson, is courage in action.
Similarly, having a protagonist, not a bit player, portray the deficits and compromises of such disorders as PTSD and aphasia (as he did in a prior film outing, The Ice Road, 2021) or Alzheimer's, here, is doubly courageous.
In all films coming out of Hollywood's dream factory, no paid contract killer ever rejects the targets assigned to him. But in keeping with his usual complex characters with nuanced operational ethos, Neeson's character will not kill Beatriz, a character supposedly 13 in the film.
Neeson here looks his age, does not engage in the refurbishment seen by, for example, Robert De Niro in a recent film in the Godfather gangster tradition (Martin Scorcese's The Irishman, 2019).
The film did major photography in El Paso, Texas, which makes sense. But also, for the scenery and settings, as well as the favorable terms extended to studios making their products in their welcoming country, in Sofia and elsewhere in Bulgaria. Amusingly, commercials made in Bulgaria are neologically termed "bulgarials."
The script for Memory is not always as icicle-clear as some. Overall, though, there is action and emotion aplenty. along with the sociological footnoted carbon footprint of Bulgaria's standards, as well as the moral compass of the Neeson character.
Finally, there isn't a trunkload of swearing or gratuitous nudity, happily, which this reviewer found refreshing and a nice change.
Image: Open Road Films