The Memory of a Killer

2003 [DUTCH]

Action / Crime / Drama

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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by claudio_carvalho 8 / 10

In the Swamp of Corruption and Children Prostitution

I bought this DVD without any reference, and for my surprise it is an excellent thriller. The theme about children prostitution is very well exposed, the beginning of the movie is very impressive, and the actress Lauren Van de Broeck that plays Bieke Cuypers really looks like a little Lolita. The story of an old hit man that has a code of honor and does not accept the job of killing a teenager, turning against the powerful men that hired him, is magnificently disclosed, in a right pace and with stunning performances. The emphatic character of Angelo Ledda is played by the unknown actor Jan Decleir, and I was really impressed with his acting. I have just seen in IMDb that "De Zaak Alzheimer" won seven prizes and three nominations in European Festivals and this movie certainly deserved these awards. The character of Baron Gustave De Haeck , living in a swamp of corruption and children prostitution, would certainly not adapt living in the jungle, as mentioned in the story. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Alzheimer Case"

Reviewed by noralee 8 / 10

A Stylish Roller Coaster Ride of a Police Thriller

"The Memory of a Killer (De Zaak Alzheimer)" is a sophisticated synthesis of several genres into a stylish thriller. There's the opening shots of a steam engine, saluting European film noir contrasting with the sharp sunlight of corrupt Marseille; the Georges Simenon-like police investigation contemporized with gritty Brit mystery crimes and the hunky bantering buddy cops where one is a wild rule-breaker and his boss is an Eliot Ness straight arrow; the samurai code of honor; the Western where the old gunslinger takes on one last conflict, like "The Unforgiven" and already adapted to "Man on the Train (L'Homme du Train)"; a revenge showdown, like the recent "Four Brothers"; the memory stream of consciousness tricks of "Memento" and the snappy editing of Hong Kong crime thrillers like "Infernal Affairs (Wu jian dao)." And we even get a "The Sopranos"-like psychological profile of a hit man.

While director Erik Van Looy smoothly integrates all these elements together in adapting what must have been a complex novel, this is terrific, intelligent popular entertainment and only its subtitles keep it in limited release in the U.S. in art houses. Too bad a Hollywood adaptation is inevitable.

The film has an exciting dual structure of following the cops and the criminal as they get intertwined and chase each other, as each sorts out vengeance and some justice (with surprising collateral damage) ever higher up the responsibility ladder so that our sympathies, and theirs, are compromised. While we atypically don't see anything of the cops' personal lives (except with an amusing visual twist that it's the guy in the shower), we do get thrust into their quite believable bureaucratic and legal wranglings, which, while a bit confusing for an American audience, can be inferred to be similar to the jurisdictional conflicts between local police departments and the FBI that we've seen in plenty of movies and TV shows. The English subtitles seem pretty good at communicating the localisms, though some of the cultural conflict in Belgium between French and Flemish speakers is lost, particularly when it is significant which language is being spoken.

The twist that is given away in the original title of the film, translated as "The Alzheimer Affair," is that the highly intelligent and perceptive criminal, the charismatic Jan Decleir, realizes he is losing his memory, and sees his near future clearly in his hospitalized brother. We get inside his head as he is trying to out race not only the cops, his traitorous client and duplicitous boss, but himself, so that his taunt of "too slow" takes on a double meaning. His professionalism takes over even when the flashy cinematography indicates he doesn't quite remember what he's done.

While the body count is high, the violence is one on one and is not gratuitous. Each death ratchets up the tensions and complications as what at first seems street level crime has cynical political implications. Much of the film takes place in the dark, like "Collateral," and while there's a fair amount of sudden coming up from behind scares, that's usually the start of a suspenseful scene where cat and mouse decisions ricochet off in surprising ways.

The music very effectively supports the action, particularly when the story continues in an unexpected direction, though the choice of a Starsailor song over the credits didn't seem to fit.

It's a bit perplexing that "The Beat That My Heart Skipped (De Battre mon coeur s'est arrete)" is getting wider distribution (probably because it's a remake of an American film and has a young hunk at the center), when this is the better European crime thriller of the summer.

Reviewed by Joyce Hauchart 9 / 10

Finally a great Belgian "policier"...

It takes a lot of guts to make a Belgian "policier". It's like making an American western without John Wayne, or a French flick without Jean Gabin or Alain Delon.

New times, new directors, new actors... Director Van Looy found his actors. Not only are they good, they are outstanding. Much will be said about the three main actors: Jan Decleir, Koen De Bauw and Werner De Smedt, but look closely at the supporting roles. Hilde De Baerdemaeker is one of the coming Belgian ladies... read my lips!

The script is based on a book by author Jef Geeraerts but for once the adaptation is better.

The dialogues are tongue in cheek, and for fans of "NYPD Blue" or "Homicide" this movie is a real treat. When the lights come on in the theater you want to look at your TV guide and check when the next episode is due...

The camera is nervous, it follows the action closely and the music is very well chosen. Also, without being chauvinistic, it's wonderful to see all the action take place in one of the largest European cities: Antwerp.

One of the best Belgian movies yet? Yes. A nice build up of characters, situations, drama. It's not easy, but it has been done.

Director Van Looy found his real commitment, a police thriller. You can compare this movie with "Memento" (the memory loss) or "Se7en" (the dualism between the two investigators) but better yet to "The Insider". Watch it: you will find out why.

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