The Netflix Report

Movie reviews from my Netflix queue. Highly personal and opinionated!

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Monday, April 17, 2006

The Memory Of A Killer (De Zaak Alzheimer)

Of all the Belgian movies I’ve seen... Oh, forget it. This is the first Belgian movie I’ve seen. And I liked it a lot. The story is a cat and mouse thriller pitting an aging top of the line professional assassin against the police detectives trying to catch him. But it ventures into much weightier areas of loyalty, political expediency and corruption, morality, and an awareness of one’s own vulnerability. Because the assassin knows that he is suffering from rapid onset dementia (Alzheimers) and is just a tad depressed to see his self sufficiency and prowess slipping away, bit by bit.

The movie makers (and especially the actor, Jan Declier) accomplish a delicate balancing act by showing the assassin as a cruel, ruthless killer, but also managing to engage our sympathies and empathy for him. Up against the killer is an obviously professional and dedicated detective in “the judiciary” (Which is a separate branch from the Belgian police. I wasn’t quite sure of how their crime fighting system works, but the interdepartmental squabbles and hatred look like what in America would be the FBI versus the local cops fighting over jurisdiction of a local murder with larger security aspects.)

The killer and the detective may end up sharing the same overall goals and sympathies, but they are attacking their problems in different ways. They find themselves intertwined in a larger story of intrigue and depravity.

The movie is violent, showing people shot, killed, and injured. There is nudity and adult subject matter. It’s a tense thriller at many times as the characters figure out the larger picture of hidden and shifting loyalties. Unfortunately it gets a little waterlogged in the final act, as things play out somewhat inevitably. They could have shaved 15 minutes off the runtime and had a much tighter film. But I still recommend it.

My biggest discomfort was watching the shots designed to show us the fragmenting state of the assassin’s mind and memory. Lots of quick cuts, out of focus snippets of strangely lit pieces of scenes, and unidentifiable closeups are spliced in rapid-fire sequence to give us the idea of how the killer’s mind is disassociating and becoming unreliable. I get the concept, but it hurt my eyes.

Characters speak a few different languages, which is common for Belgium. French is one, and there are a few jokes in the script about characters knowing that language or not. My knowledge of the other languages isn’t good enough to tell if it is solid Dutch, or if there is German and Flemish thrown in as well. A few English words even slip into sentences occasionally. The subtitles were clear and understandable and easy to read in the black border below the letterboxed picture area.

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