ST. LOUIS — "We all have to die. What's important is what you do before you go."
That's Liam Neeson narrating the opening seconds of his upcoming movie, "Memory." Guess what? It's an action film. When it comes to Liam Neeson and these types of roles, consistency is key. Like it or not, the soon-to-be 70-year-old actor simply won't stop, can't stop making these movies, so it's about time we as movie consumers embrace the fact that some career survival tactics are endless amounts of hero roles.
All one can hope for is that the next one is *much* better than last month's "Blacklight." That Mark Williams thriller pulled in an 8% on Rotten Tomatoes. For the record, 60% is considered fresh. Neeson has the acting chops to inhabit and enhance just about any underwritten role, but perhaps "Memory" won't need as much help.
Martin Campbell is directing this one. He gave us an action treat jar with last year's "The Protege," and also introduced the world to Daniel Craig's James Bond in "Casino Royale." Americans also got to meet Mads Mikkelsen for the first time in the latter film. Campbell also directed Jackie Chan in "The Foreigner," Mel Gibson in "The Edge of Darkness," Antonio Banderas in "The Legend of Zorro," and the first Pierce Brosnan movie where he played James Bond.
Campbell could polish the man of action persona that moviegoers fell in love with during 2008's "Taken." The following sequel wasn't half-bad, but part three was porous. From there, you can find a solid Neeson-led thriller for every four he makes. Seeing him in "Widows" and "Ordinary Love" showed the flip side, while "Run All Night" and "Nonstop" kept us entertained. Pairing his services with Campbell, who unveiled Michael Keaton as a viable action co-lead in last year's "Protege," could return Neeson to the peak level of action stardom.
A supporting cast including Guy Pearce, Monica Bellucci, Taj Atwal, and Ray Fearon doesn't hurt. A plot with a unique hook also enlivens the surroundings. Neeson playing "an expert assassin with discreet precision" is nothing new, but the additional hook of his Alex Lewis slowly losing control of his memories makes this one a pressure cooker-type experience. Check out the trailer.
Lewis doesn't complete a job, and that sets off a manhunt led by Pearce and company. But Neeson's lead forgetting what's real or not shakes up the table just enough.
What's also interesting to see is Briarcliff Entertainment and Open Road Films distributing "Memory." Audiences have gotten a nice assortment of thriller delights from this studio, but they've also received plenty of rougher ones as well. Talking to you, "Studio 666" and "Blacklight." Here's to hoping Campbell can wave his aging star magic wand one last time with Neeson.
The talent has always been there, ever since "Next of Kin." The awards have proven his depth. The action has shown how versatile he can be, even when mocking himself ("Ted 2"). But I want to see the man actually have a pulse during his movies, and not seem half-dead.
"Memory" shows a promising chance of unearthing that mad revenge man we all know and love again. It hits theaters on April 29.