The Memory of a Killer (2003)

Rating: B

Dir: Erik Van Looy
Star: Jan Decleir, Koen De Bouw, Werner De Smedt, Jo De Meyere

“No women, no kids.” Even cinematic hitmen have their qualms, as Leon’s famous quote shows, and the same goes for Angelo Ledda (Decleir), who travels from Marseilles to Antwerp to kill two people. The first, he accomplishes with only minor problems, but when he discovers who is the second target, he balks. His employers are none too happy, and attempt to take out Ledda, only to find that hell hath no fury like an assassin scorned – even one suffering from Alzheimer’s, which Ledda is – he continually writes notes on himself in order to remember things.

He turns the tables, starts hunting his way back up the chain, and the resulting trail of dead bodies attracts the attention of Detectives Vincke (De Bouw) and Verstuyft (De Smedt). The former gradually realizes he may be on the same side as the killer: the corruption the latter is exposing goes so high, as to lead to pressure coming down from above on the cops and attempts, both subtle and less-so, to derail the case he is building against Ledda’ targets. There’s more than an echo of the infamous Marc Dutroux paedophile case, which rocked Belgium from the mid 90’s on [the film is set in 1995], with its claims of high-ranking sexual abuse rings. However, the film does lose direction with too much time spent on policial politics, which make little or no sense to anyone outside the country.

That’s about the only real weakness; Decleir is brilliant in his portrayal of a weary killer, who finally (perhaps too late?) decides to draw the line, and you can see why he’s been asked, but declined, to appear in everything from Kubrick films to Bond movies. I also really like De Bouw as the cop who pursues him, and even though the two only share a single scene until the finale, there’s a great sense of escalation in their relationship. Right from the opening scene, there’s an edge that the reported Hollywood remake will be hard pushed to capture, and this is overall a fine example of the Euro-policier.