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De Zaak Alzheimer (a.k.a. Memory of a Killer)

(2005) ** 1/2 R
120 min. Sony Pictures Classics. Director: Erik Van Looy. Cast: Jan Decleir, Koen de Bouw, Gene Bervoets, Jo de Meyere, Patrick Deschamps.

In a case of movies imitating movies imitating movies, Hollywood-based Focus Features has acquired the remake rights to the Belgian policier The Memory of a Killer (a.k.a. The Alzheimer Case), which takes after the paperback plotting of American crime thrillers and the style of Michael Mann. As adapted from the work of popular detective novelist Jef Geeraerts, The Memory of a Killer is the pride of Belgium, home to precious few polished films.

In 1995 Antwerp, detectives Vincke and Verstuyft (Koen De Bouw and Werner De Smedt) follow a trail of bodies to a veteran hitman. The trouble is that, despite the encroachment of Alzheimer's disease, the hitman isn't quite finished yet. On the bright side, he confides with the detectives as he races his biological clock to clean up the scum of his trade. The hitman with a failing memory concept isn't exploited to full effect, and if one scratches the surface, the plot becomes dubious rather quickly. At two hours, it's also not quick enough.

On these shores, The Memory of a Killer is pretty humdrum stuff, with a heap of crime-movie clichés (the ol' Silence of the Lambs misdirection scene becomes a workhorse here) and second-hand style (images reminiscent of Memento, The Professional, and the oeuvre of John Woo). Perhaps because of veteran actor Jan Decleir's resolute dryness, the sympathy toward the obvious evil of a contract killer never flies (though apparently, the Belgian assassin's code forbids slaying children...must be a union thing). Still, the clever central gimmick and a streak of sly humor lift Erik Van Looy's film, just barely, a cut above the norm.

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Aspect ratios: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1

Street date: 2/21/2006

Distributor: Sony Home Entertainment

After trailers for Caché and Capote, the Sony special edition of The Memory of a Killer serves up a colorful, clean transfer with crisp image and sound. The special features leave something more to be desired, unfortunately, providing some behind-the-scenes glimpses, but considerably more style than substance.

"A Night to Remember" (5:25) records October 7, 2003, the film's Belgian premiere, with some footage of Q&As and the after-party scene. "The Memory of a Killer: Behind the Scenes" (21:12) mostly consists of production B-roll footage set to insistent music—along the way, we get to see a bit of the initial table read and the cast's shooting lessons.

Sony also includes a barrage of added trailers: The White Countess, Junebug, Thumbsucker, Saraband, 2046, November, The Passenger, Breakfast on Pluto, The Tenants, Where the Truth Lies, and The Dying Gaul. Overall, these amount to the most boring and least informative special features you're likely to find, but for those who find the film of sole importance, the disc delivers.
Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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