The Memory of a Killer

"Very Good"

The Memory of a Killer Review


Belgian director Erik Van Looy must be a big fan of U.S. thrillers, because he just made one. His cast may be pretty much unknown in America, but that's for the good. As for upbeat pacing, an attractive production and an original concept, it should play well to all audiences who enjoy a police vs. hitman escapade peppered with suspenseful action.

Since it doesn't have star power to solidify the bottom line, it may remain a sleeper, soon to hit the bins. But, make no mistake, this is exemplary crime stuff, complex anti-hero and all.

Officers Eric Vincke (Koen De Bouw) and Freddie Verstuyft (Werner De Smedt) are the best detectives of the Antwerp police department. When they pull off a sting operation on a pedophile father pimping out his 12-year old daughter, they're forced to kill him as he lunges at them with a knife. But the case doesn't rest there. The rescue of the daughter is just the opening interlude in the exposure of political cover-ups and the murderous misuse of power.

The twist here is in the nature and physical condition of the hit man handling the murder part of it, one Angelo Ledda (Jan Decleir). When he's approached with a new contract offer, he's reluctant to go out into the field again. He's tired and, approaching 60, not feeling so up to it anymore. But he does accept the contract, kills an official, and arouses Vincke and Verstuyft to the realization that several different murders may have a common source since bodies are showing up with the same gunshot pattern -- the distinct work of a professional.

The second victim on Ledda's assignment list brings out the hitman's personal code of ethics, one that limits whom he'll kill. He knows it's a female but what he doesn't find out until he tracks her and calls out her name to make her turn toward him, is that she's just a child. In fact, the very child that Vincke and Verstuyft rescued. He won't have it. "You don't hurt children," he will later say.

But someone else does, and that guy doesn't have any moral compunctions about age. In fact, this stone killer goes after Ledda when it becomes apparent to the person who has contracted the killing that Mr. L not only couldn't do the job, but has apparently become a turncoat. The trouble is that Ledda's sense of virtue has been aroused and he wants to know who his real employer is. Pretty soon his superb marksmanship and devious strategies leave behind a trail of dead bad guys, each a little higher in the pecking order, until he gets to the guy who hired him.

The drama unfolds as a chase-escape conflict between the criminals and the men on opposite sides of the law, with an abundance of complexity. The common focus is the well-protected demon provoking the murders. Ledda, a scary criminal with a benign dimension is too fascinating and vulnerable a figure to quite condemn. Leclair makes him the center of our sympathies, playing him as a square-jawed magneto demolishing the really bad guys one body at a time.

The notion of his encroaching Alzheimer's disease is stretched to the limits of credibility by writer Carl Joos, working from a novel by Jef Geeraerts. We don't see signs of it much until it becomes a serious threat to his work, timed for a life or death moment of tension.

There is a problem, however, in Looy's purposefully erratic jump cutting, handheld camera, off-color, and off-balance vignettes to suggest the disease's inroads into Ledda's distorted visions. Perhaps some Alzheimer's victims see their surroundings as time-color warps, but the technique comes off as an overused contrivance.

Casting is fine throughout, with police team member Hilde De Baerdemaeker providing a scene-stealing ingredient of knockout glamour -- one gorgeous cop. But my applause goes to all for a classically stylish killer that I haven't seen since Max von Sydow was in town. This was Belgium's official selection as Best Foreign Language Film for 2004, and it's a strong political statement about the corrupt misuse of power in its own right.

Aka The Alzheimer Case, De Zaak Alzheimer.



The Memory of a Killer

Facts and Figures

Run time: 123 mins

In Theaters: Monday 26th September 2005

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Fresh: 56 Rotten: 11

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Erik Van Looy

Producer: Hilde De Laere, Erwin Provoost

Starring: Koen De Bouw as Eric Vincke, as Freddy Verstuyft, as Angelo Ledda, Jo De Meyere as Baron Henri Gustave de Haeck, as Majoor De Keyzer, Hilde De Baerdemaeker as Linda de Leenheer, Geert Van Rampelberg as Tom Coemans, Tom Van Dyck as Jean de Haeck, Johan van Assche as Van Parys, Gene Bervoets as Seynaeve, Lucas van den Eynde as Bob Van Camp, as Bieke Cuypers, Deborah Ostrega as Anja

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