NEW YORKER FILMS
OFFICIAL BELGIUM ENTRY
ACADEMY AWARDS ®
TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL
“WITHOUT QUESTION, THE BEST
CRIME MOVIE OF THE YEAR–AND
ONE OF THE BEST MOVIES OF
ANY SORT NOW PLAYING.”
-Richard Schickel, TIME MAGAZINE
AN ERIK VAN LOOY FILM
One of Belgium’s 10 top-grossing films of all time. Angelo Ledda is an international hit man who has been
hired to terminate two people. Unknown to those around him, Ledda has advanced symptoms of Alzheimer’s,
and the double murder will likely be his last.This gripping, stylishly filmed and fast-moving thriller is wonderfully
acted and its complexities of plot keep audiences guessing.
BELGIUM • 2005 • 120 mins • Color • In Dutch and French with English subtitles
Friday, August 26, 2005
Jan Decleir—a Belgian actor who has the rugged, bitterly
savvy demeanor of great gangster movie stars like
Humphrey Bogart or Lee Marvin—plays a hit man afflicted
with Alzheimer's disease in the new Belgian thriller "The
Memory of a Killer." It's very close to a great performance.
With his aging-swinger looks (a little like crooner Tony
Bennett's), natty clothes and a grim, unvarying expression that
reads like a death sentence, Decleir, 59, is a fantastic crime
thriller protagonist. He helps make "Memory," adapted by
director Erik Van Looy from the novel by Jef Geeraerts, into a
sometimes stunning modern Euro-noir.
As Angelo Ledda, a high-priced hired assassin and Alzheimer's
victim who turns the tables on his employers, the actor conveys
both annihilating anguish and cold-blooded brutality with
unnerving force. Oscillating between those extremes—snapping
a victim's neck and gobbling down his medication as his memory
splinters into bits—Ledda becomes eerily, scarily moving.
The movie itself is as slick, fast and terrifyingly violent as a
top-grade American crime thriller, but a lot smarter than most.
It's built around Ledda's dilemma, initially caused by the
investigation of a child-prostitution ring in Antwerp by two
young cop protagonists: sharp sleuth Eric Vincke (Koen De
Bouw) and his hard-guy partner, Freddy Verstuyft (Werner De
Despite the illness he's been hiding, Ledda—a Belgian-born
hired killer from Marseilles— takes on one last job in Antwerp,
a double contract pressed on him by his longtime employer
Seynaeve (Gene Bervoets). The first hit, on a local politician
connected to the ring (Lucas Van den Eynde), comes off
quickly. But when Ledda discovers that his second slated victim
is a 12-year-old girl—a child hooker named Brigitte testifying
for the police—he balks, because, among other reasons, he was
a victim of child abuse himself.
This refusal makes Ledda a target for his own boss and for
the well-connected clique of politicians and businessmen
involved in the prostitution ring. So Ledda goes after them. As
he tracks them down, going higher and higher up into the
"protected" realms of Belgian government and aristocracy, the
killer is tracked himself by Vincke and Verstuyft.
There's an intense, wayward pleasure in watching this movie's
upper-class, supposedly well-guarded brothel masters, crooks
and killers get theirs at the hands of a true pro. But "Memory,"
like the amnesia noir "Memento," is also laced with another
constant anxiety: the degeneration of his Alzheimer's hovering
like a specter over Ledda's bloody war.
The story, directed with surpassing slickness, skill and high
energy by Van Looy, is told from three angles: the cops', the
crooks' and Ledda's. The crooks are properly smug, sadistic and
loathsome, and the cops are a likable, handsome twosome who
suggest American movie prototypes. The smoother, more liberal
Vincke, who looks like Ethan Hawke, lives in a condo that
resembles a Van Gogh print gallery, and the rougher-hewn,
angrier and more right-wing Verstuyft, a Chris Penn type,
gobbles sweets, drives fast and shoots awesomely straight.
But it's Ledda and his trapped, bloody trajectory that give
"Memory" both tension and near-tragedy. Van Looy directs it in a
very flashy style and it's full of good performances, crisply staged
action, tilted-angle frames and wire-taut editing. He lets his
imaginative cinematographer, Danny Elsen, drench the screen in
darkness and cold light and he uses jump-cuts reminiscent of
Godard's "Breathless" both to give the movie a driving, reckless
energy and, at times, to suggest Ledda's disease, the way his
memory is fragmenting and falling apart.
"Memory of a Killer" like all top noirs, has style, a riveting
narrative pace and a chillingly dark world-view that keep you
hooked right from the opening shots. Once you see Ledda's
eyes, intent on the kill or blank with sudden panic, they'll haunt
your memory too. (excerpt)
THE MEMORY OF A KILLER
Directed by Erik Van Looy; written (in Flemish and French, with English
subtitles) by Carl Joos and Mr. Van Looy, based on the novel "The
Alzheimer Case" by Jef Geeraerts; director of photography, Danny Elsen;
edited by Philippe Ravoet; music by Stephen Warbeck; art director, Johan
Van Assche; produced by Erwin Provoost and Hilde De Laere. Running
time: 120 minutes. This film is rated R.
WITH: Koen De Bouw (Eric Vincke), Werner De Smedt (Freddy
Verstuyft), Jan Decleir (Angelo Ledda), Hilde De Baerdemaeker (Linda
De Leenheer), Geert Van Rampelberg (Tom Coemans), Jo De Meyere
(Baron Henri Gustave De Haeck) and Patrick Descamps (Gilles Resnais).
Available now in35mm, and DVD/VHS Public Performance (February) to non-theatrical customers (all dates subject to theatrical approval).
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