Memory of a Killer
(De Zaak Alzheimer)

Memory of a Killer (De Zaak Alzheimer)
Made in: Belgium
Language: Dutch, French
Director: Erik Van Looy
Starring: Jan Decleir, Koen De Bouw, Werner De Smedt, Gene Bervoets, Jo De Meyere, Tom Van DyckJappe Claes
Year: 2003

Synopsis: Based on the novel by Jef Geeraerts. Aging hitman Angelo Ledda (Jan Decleir), who lives in France, is called out of retirement to do one last job in Belgium. Providing the details of the job is a man named Seynaeve (Gene Bervoets), whom Ledda meets upon arrival. His first target is a wealthy businessman (Lucas van den Eijnde), who is hiding a mysterious item locked up in a safe at his house.

However, Ledda refuses to go along with a second assignment once he realizes that the target is a twelve year-old girl named Bieke Cuypers (Laurien Van den Broeck).

Bieke was rescued from a child sex operation that was busted years earlier by chief Detective Erik Vincke (Koen De Bouw) and his partner, Freddy Verstuyft (Werner De Smedt).

Ledda finds that he has now become the target of retaliation by those who hired him, and decides to strike back. But since he's stricken with Alzheimer's disease, he has a very short amount of time to accomplish his goal. What's worse, is that he's found himself embroiled in the middle of a shocking scandal involving some of Belgium's most prestigious citizens and corrupt police officials.

In a bold move, he aids Vincke and Verstuyft with their investigation, and engages them in a cat-and-mouse game which will ultimately lead them to the truth. But with Ledda's condition rapidly deteriorating, can the hitman be trusted?

The Good: Memory of a Killer is a well-structured, well-directed, solid mystery/thriller with a strong, coherent plot. The concept of a hitman with Alzheimer's Disease is intriguing and original. Jan Decleir plays a fascinating protagonist, and the supporting cast is good as well.

It should be noted that this thriller succeeded without a single car chase or wild stunt. Instead, it relies heavily on acting and advancing the complex story elements. That isn't to say that there's no action at all- there certainly is. But there's also a maturity and seriousness about the film, which creates a sense of depth and sophistication.

The Bad: If you've seen action cop movies before, then you can pretty much guess how Memory of a Killer is going to end. It contains a lot of stuff that have almost become cliché to fans of the genre: We've got the "hitman with a conscience," hard-boiled detectives who have a problem with authority, incompetent superiors who stonewall the heroes, and the miraculous break in the case.

In other words, it's pretty formulaic from a storytelling perspective.

There are also a few moments when the suspension of disbelief gets a little ridiculous. For one thing, I find it hard to believe that an aging, Alzheimer's sufferer is somehow able to sneak past, and then singlehandedly take on, a highly trained squad of Belgian paramilitary police.

And after that, he somehow manages to jump through a 2nd story window and land on the ground without any problems. Most college kids can't even do that without breaking bones.

Who would like this film: Memory of a Killer isn't just meant for fans of foreign films. Its storyline and characters are as mainstream as anything you'd see in Hollywood. Although formulaic and a little predictable, it's a very well-directed, well-acted movie. Perhaps it isn't groundbreaking, but it's respectable.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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