Erik Van Looy's The Memory of a Killer aka "The Alzheimer Case" may be derivative of American films like Seven, Heat, and Memento, yet it has an intellectual edge like its protagonist, Angelo Ledda.
In Belgian with English subtitles, this Oscar-nominee for Best Foreign Feature intriguingly gets into the personal turmoil of Ledda, a longtime hitman, well played by Jan Decleir.
He compromises his career and his life when he is called upon to terminate a pre-teen girl, Bieke (Laurien Van den Broeck), but does not. Ledda happens to have been a child abuse victim, and the script, co-written by Van Looy, has the killing machine turning against his mob cohorts and employer after a contract is out on him for selling out.
The premise of Ledda's malady gets some mileage from the translation of the Dutch title (De Zaak Alzheimer). The forgetfulness he contends with has him putting written reminders on his arm which reminds one of what the Guy Pearce's Leonard Shelby did in Memento.
The solving of the case involves an underlying narrative concerning detectives Eric Vincke (Koen De Bouw) and Freddy Verstuyft (Werner De Smedt) out to stop Ledda and the syndicate bent on child prostitution. Some decent interplay occur between by De Bouw and Decleir as Vincke gradually gets some information by phone from Ledda.
Van Looy presents some political machinations and very unscrupulous activity led by the powerfully malevolent Baron de Haeck (Jo De Meyere) the Minister of State. It loops the police and government officials in a web that has Ledda the only one who could spell trouble for de Haeck. Yet, his condition is paralyzing him in a way that blurs fact and fiction.
The Memory of a Killer has plenty of mysterious pieces taken from Jef Geeraert's detective novel that have drugging, blackmail and kidnapping towards the finish. When the ending appears to come there is something else, almost in a soulful turn on The Professional. What was mostly smoothly paced turns less dynamic as Ledda has one more clue for Vincke.
While the film underlines the exigencies of the underhanded power games of contract killers, the sharp visuals, with much cutting and deep hues, can't hide the fact that this chilling pulp cinema is prone to Alzheimer's.