Does Memory Count As A Liam Neeson Action Movie? The Star And Director Have Some Interesting Thoughts On The Subject

On the surface, you wouldn’t be mistaken for assuming that director Martin Campbell’s latest film Memory is another entry into the canon of upcoming Liam Neeson movies. Featuring the man himself playing a hitman with a mental degenerative disease, there’s explosions, well executed hits, and intense phone calls included throughout the film. All of those are staples of the Neeson action canon, but despite the presence of such elements, both the actor and his director provided interesting thoughts on whether Memory counts in the genre that Neeson just can't seem to quit.

I learned this personally, as I was able to speak with both Liam Neeson and Martin Campbell on behalf of Memory’s press day. While discussing the ins and outs of things like the portrayal of mental degeneration in Neeson’s character, Alex Lewis, it felt like a good time to also ask if this very psychological film could be considered an “action movie.” In Neeson’s opinion the answer is yes, and he clarified why when speaking to CinemaBlend: 

Very definitely, but it also gave me two or three extra layers that I could focus on, that I could certainly do research on. Which was the affliction of dementia, and the disease of Alzheimers, which I had read quite a bit, and also watched documentaries about. And I worked very closely with Martin Campbell, the director of Memory, to introduce little ticks, little things that would show a gradual decay in the mind of this man.

To the actor who’s been kicking ass since the surprise success of 2008’s Taken, the formula that Memory uses to entertain its audience fits the bill alongside that his previous forays. The argument could go either way, as even the trailer itself shows Liam Neeson’s Alex Lewis stealthily taking bad guys out during innocuous events like an early morning exercise. Adding an exploding car set-piece, as well as several mysterious phone calls to a local detective played by Guy Pearce, and loyal fans might tell you that it’s an experience comparable to one of Neeson’s best films

Yet the reasons that Neeson cites as giving Memory those “extra layers” he was excited to dive into overlap with director Martin Campbell’s opinion on the matter. For him, his follow-up to the definitely action heavy The Protegé differs from his opinion of just what a Liam Neeson Action Movie contains. Asking him the same question, the director gave me the following answer:

Yeah, no, it’s a psychological thriller. It’s not a normal Liam Neeson [action movie.] Having said that, as you said, there are spots of action in it … I found the story fascinating. I hope the story has enough pace and kind of drive in it to keep people, even those who are use to the Liam Neeson kick ass sort of action movies, involved.

Despite the slight disconnect on whether or not Memory is an action movie, Martin Campbell and Liam Neeson both agreed that the challenge of depicting Alzheimers on screen was part of what made this film special no matter what. Campbell even seems to think that it’s part of why Neeson took the role in the first place, as he also told me that the vulnerability of the character seemed to be a determining factor for their teaming.

The collaboration between actor and director helped fine tune Alex Lewis’s affliction and how it was shown in Memory. Further elaborating on the research he’d done for the film, Liam Neeson laid out the process he engaged in with his director to make sure Alex was on the level with reality: 

There were lots of things I wanted to put in, and Martin would say, ‘Too much, Liam, don’t do that’ or ‘Cut it by 50%.’ So it was great to have Martin at the helm. He’s a wonderful director, but also we were very close in regards to letting the audience see this gradual affliction that’s happening to my character.

Personally, I’m not certain that this movie belongs under the label of a Liam Neeson Action Movie. I’d previously laid out some of the reasons why in our official review for Memory, and after speaking to Neeson and Martin Campbell, I’m more on the side of the director’s view of the movie. At the same time, I can see where the argument isn't as clear cut as some would think, and ultimately audiences will have to decide whether Memory fits that bill, or not. 

Should you be interested to take part in the conversation, Memory is currently showing exclusively in theaters. If you want to see what’s coming down the road to a moviehouse near you, the schedule of 2022 movie releases is available to answer those very questions. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.