Published on NewYorkCool.com
In Flemish and French with English subtitles.
Starring: Jan Decleir; Koen De Bouw; Werner De Smedt.
Reviewed by Christina M. Hinke
New York Cool
In the Belgium film, The Memory of a Killer, the lead character has a problem. Angelo Ledda (Jan Decleir) is a hired assassin who forgets who he’s knocked-off, who is on his hit list and even what his room number is. The sixty-something year old suffers Alzheimer’s disease and writes numbers, names and tasks on his forearm.
Though the memory loss angle may be evocative of Christopher Nolan’s Memento, it works well to create sympathy for the hired hit man. The story transports the viewer inside Ledda’s mind, feeling his torment as his memory fades. But what really keeps the audience glued to their seats is Erik Van Looy’s directorial approach. He uses jumpy camera techniques to create pulse-quickening effects during the fast moving action scenes, but then he slows down the action to a cool pace, letting the story evolve into a stylish crime thriller.
Adapted for the screen from a detective novel by Jef Geeraerts, the story begins in 1995 Belgium when detectives Vincke (Koen De Bouw) and Verstuyft (Werner De Smedt) of the Antwerp police department investigate a series of murders in which all fingers point to a political big wig. Assassin Angelo Ledda breaks his contract when he discovers that one of his targets is a twelve-year old girl. Ledda then decides to leak clues to the cops about the web of people behind the shootings (just in case he forgets the facts himself), but he also stays two steps ahead of the law and kills off each perpetrator - one by one.
The lead actors are all well-known, good-looking European film stars. De Bouw’s dark and moody portrayal of Vincke is dead-on. The curly redhead De Smedt adds a much needed touch of humor to the otherwise serious action thriller. Decleir is captivating as Ledda; his demeanor can flip instantly from gentlemanly to that of a deadly killer, showing a brute strength that is both shocking and exciting. That Ledda is losing his memory makes this character even more compelling. His ultra-hip sunglasses complete his cool-killer persona. I would like to see a Decleir-Tarantino collaboration as Decleir also has the ability to bring to life the twisted and complex characters that are a Tarantino standard.
In scenes when Ledda’s memory flickers, the screen flashes with brightly colored images of past or present (I’m not sure which) making it difficult to comprehend what is actually going on. I suppose it is to let the audience know that his Alzheimer’s symptoms are kicking in.
Otherwise, this action suspense thriller is a “must see” for all you thrill seekers out there. The Memory Of A Killer won five Belgian Oscars and it could certainly find acclaim in the eyes of American viewers with its Hollywood-style fast-moving action and superb acting.
Sony Pictures Classics. R. 120 minutes. Rated R.
Copyright 2005 Christina M. Hinke. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.