Memory of a Killer

on September 26, 2005 by Tim Cogshell
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Based on the novel "De Zaak Alzheimer" by noted Flemish author Jef Geeraerts, director Erik Van Looy's "Memory of a Killer" most certainly would have been adapted for an American audience since if Geeraerts' novels (most of which are thrillers filled with political intrigue) were known among English-speaking audiences. Not that a Hollywood version is necessary by any means -- it all works just fine in Dutch, not to mention with its cast of noted Dutch and French actors, most of whom will also not be known to American audiences.

Angelo Ledda (Jan Decleir) is a hitman who has been hired to kill two people in Belgium. He's also suffering from fairly advanced symptoms of Alzheimers. Ledda quickly finishes the first kill, a high-profile official, which puts him in the sights of police detectives Eric Vincke (Koen De Bouw) and Freddy Verstuyft (Werner De Smedt). When Ledda realizes that his second target is a 12-year-old girl, memories from his childhood emerge from the haze of his disease, and he reneges on the job, electing instead to kill the people who ordered the hit on the child. This leads our unlikely hero down a complicated path of political dirty dealings and double-crosses that he is ill equipped handle with his confused mind, ever-diminishing skills and the police closing in on him.

There is a lot going on in this densely packed thriller, but helmer Van Looy maintains a taut pace while creating a sense of suspense -- and empathy -- for its dark protagonist. "Memory of a Killer" has all the style and crunch of British gangster films ranging from "Get Carter" to "Gangster Number One," or American noir thrillers adapted from the likes of Jim Thompson ("The Getaway," "After Dark My Sweet") and James McEllroy ("L.A. Confidential"). This is good stuff, in any language. Starring Jan Decleir, Koen De Bouw and Werner De Smedt. Directed by Eric Van Looy. Written by Eric Van Looy and Carl Joos. Produced by Hilde De Laere and Erwin Provoost A Sony Pictures Classics release. Thriller. Dutch- and French-language; subtitled. Rated R for violence, sexuality and nudity. Running time: 121 min

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