First, a confession. I have a soft spot for any movie where Liam Neeson plays a slightly crinkly dude who beats up bad guys while wearing a cool black coat. Which is lucky because since the release of Taken in 2008 there has been a constant conveyor belt of thrifty thrillers in which Neeson – who turned 70 in June – plays a slightly crinkly dude who beats up bad guys while wearing a cool black coat.
Maybe he’s a freelance fixer with a military background, or a career criminal with a strict ethical code, or a special agent whose morally murky job has messed up his relationship with his family but one thing is for sure: he is going to slap around some ineffective henchmen in pursuit of street justice.
Is there a reason why the still-strapping Irishman remains so committed to playing ultra-capable leading men in deeply average action movies? Perhaps he has a very particular set of bills.
This week sees the release of Memory, Neeson’s second such movie of 2022 but one that puts a new spin on the familiar formula. He plays Alex Lewis, a fastidious hitman who refuses to assassinate a young girl in El Paso. That puts him in the crosshairs of a Mexican trafficking ring, a tight spot at the best of times, but Lewis is also apparently struggling with the first signs of Alzheimer’s, including physical tremors and memory blackouts.
It seems like an intriguing way to undercut Neeson’s familiar screen persona: suddenly his typically driven professional is second-guessing his every move. (The casting of Guy Pearce in a supporting role feels like a nod to Memento, another thriller that generates tension by scrambling perceptions of time and intent.)
So Memory sounds quite promising. But will it make much of an impact? Neeson’s last macho movie was
Blacklight – in which he played an off-the-books undercover expert who finds himself at the centre of a sinister FBI conspiracy – which debuted to little fanfare on Sky Cinema in March. While Memory was released in cinemas in the US, it will premiere here on Prime Video. Have we somehow fallen out of love with Big Liam in a cool black coat?