The Memory of a Killer movie review, The Alzheimer Case, Erik Van Looy, Jan Decleir, Koen De Bouw. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire
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"The Memory of a Killer" (De Zaak Alzheimer)
2 stars
120 minutes | Rated: R
NY/LA: Friday, August 26, 2005
LIMITED: Friday, September 2, 2005
Directed by Erik Van Looy

Starring Jan Decleir, Koen De Bouw, Werner De Smedt, Deborah Ostrega, Hilde De Baerdemaeker, Jo De Meyere

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Flemish thriller about an assassin with Alzheimer's suffers from Hollywood-itis

By Rob Blackwelder

Slick, overly stylish and conspicuously short on logic at critical moments, the only thing that prevents the assassin thriller "The Memory of a Killer" from seeming 100-percent Hollywood is the characters speaking in subtitled Dutch.

The movie is cat-and-mouser about an hired gun who finds a conscience when he realizes his latest target is a little girl -- not unlike Jennifer Garner in the crummy comic-book bomb "Elektra," except that the brilliant Jan Decleir ("Character") isn't a 30-year-old hottie back from the dead in skin-tight leather. He's an old man whose bout with Alzheimer's disease is turning his mind cloudy and dangerously unstable.

Putting himself at risk by bucking his assignment, the killer tries to steer a hunky cop (Koen De Bouw), who is hot on his trail, toward a climactic showdown with a much bigger fish: a wealthy baron whose child-molester son wanted the girl dead.

A star of De Niro-like proportions in northern Europe, the ominously hulking Decleir gives a typically potent performance (for which he won Best Actor when "Killer" swept the Belgian film awards). Sometimes he seems like nothing more than a sad, feeble old man haunted by nightmares of his intended young victim's face glowing in the pinpoint light of a targeting laser. But this killer is able to snap into an instinctual kill mode at the slightest provocation -- and when he does, the actor's vulnerable, outsized facial features harden into chillingly unemotional stone.

Director Erik Van Looy (who won Best Director) shoots the movie with such handsome, glossy, music-video proficiency that he'll probably be lured to Los Angeles before long -- where he should fit right in, if this picture's considerable plot contrivances and expensive set dressings are any indication.

"The Memory of a Killer" has very high-tech and luxurious notions of what police stations look like and what kind of apartments sexy, fashionably unshaven detectives can afford on public service salaries. But more problematic are the story's unlikely coincidences (Officer Sexy is called to three crime scenes in the first act that just happen to all tie together in the last) and intelligence-insulting plot devices that depend entirely on the ineptitude of the cops. Example: In what seems to be the climax until the film launches into a heel-dragging 20-minute epilogue, police snipers fall for the old switching-jackets-with-the-hostage trick and kill the wrong man.

While "Killer" is certainly no worse than your average big-budget, big-studio cop drama (an American remake can't be far off), Hollywood already cranks out plenty of those, so there doesn't seem much point in paying to see them imitated in a foreign language.

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