The Memory of a Killer (aka De Zaak Alzheimer)

Contributing Writer; Toronto, Canada (@triflic)


I'm not a fan of the North American title of the film which is just a bit gauche. I was however, a fan of the film. Here is my review of The Alzheimer Case.

Director Erik Van Looy can only be described as the Belgian Michael Mann. This glossy, slick thriller seems to be cut from similar cloth as Manhunter, Heat and Collateral.

(Potentially *mild spoilers* to follow, be warned)

An ultra-professional assassin, Angelo Ledda, is hired to eliminate the political rivals of a rich and powerful Baron. Angelo is getting on in his years and struggling with Alzheimers disease. This allows for some stylistic photography to simulate his mental state, which is often disoriented and confused. He finds out on his second mark that the target is a 12 year-old girl. He refuses, citing professional ethics. The Baron then puts out a hit on the very assassin he hired, leading to a complete reversal of sides. Meanwhile the police are investigating the case of one the first assassination and get confused when the bodies start to pile up on both sides.

The Alzheimer Case a gripping and tight motion picture. This is due in no small part to the performance of Jan Decleir (the aging icon of Belgium Cinema) which is superbly nuanced and avoids the trap of the Alzheimer conceit from ever feeling like a gimmick. Angelo is a hard and direct man who is now having trouble with reality and dealing with the loss of his professional competence; for him this is his entire life. The movie isn't afraid to slow down develop Angelo either, it's his show , often in spite of the plot. His gruff moral code will be familiar to North American audiences even as the movie exudes a welcome European flavour (particularly one sequence involving a prostitute and her treatment by both a potential client and later the Angelo himself).

There is the requisite police banter and interdeptmental politics amoungst the cops, their superiors and politicians (see also Infernal Affairs) which are not particularly noteworthy other than to explain the actions of some of the plot. The film shines however with the banter between the one highly competent police investigator (who is reminiscent of Mark Ruffalo's character in Collateral) and Angelo. There is a nice parallel between the pair. Both exude professionalism despite being on different sides of the law. For most the movie they are working on the same side, but the cop is using law enforcement procedure, and the Angelo using vigilante techniques. The film climaxes in a way that is both tense and well conceived (even if you can see a 'surprise' or two coming long before they are revealed).

The Alzheimer Case will not revolutionize or reinvent the genre, but does belong on the top shelf of slick, testosterone laden assassin/police thrillers with Collateral and Infernal Affairs.

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