When an aging and seriously ill contract-killer (Jan Decleir) discovers that his employer has been involved in a child pornography ring he decides that even in the business of killing certain standards must be upheld. He declines to take out an underage mark and all of a sudden all hell breaks loose. Ex-"business associates" are sent after him to resolve the unexpected complication and he is forced to go deep undercover meticulously making his way back to those that once paid for his services.
Directed by self-proclaimed Michael Mann admirer Erik Van Looy this hugely successful Belgian-Dutch production indeed mixes all kinds of interesting styles thus evolving into a great crime thriller which I am convinced will bode well with international audiences. Relying on a well-known Memento-esque structure where the main protagonist is unable to recollect his memories The Memory of a Killer (a rather dull translation of the original and more suggestive title De Zaak Alzheimer a.k.a The Alzheimer Case) actually offers a story which not only surprises with its originality but delivers a great deal of stylish camera work as well.
While I certainly dislike the cut-and-zoom quick camera moves which one is likely to encounter in a Jerry Bruckheimer film Belgian director Erik Van Looy managed to convince me with his flashy special effects that his film needed a little extra oomph to keep up with the memory twists the aging hitman was undergoing. As a result instead of a boring and predictable Memento-copycat De Zaak Alzheimer evolves as a rather unique film which is likely to appeal to art-house aficionados as well as straightforward action junkies.
There are two reasons why De Zaak Alzheimer works: First off, it is the terrific Jan Decleir. An actor who does everything with such finesse that you would soon forget that he is, well,…just an actor. His sudden bursts of anger mixed with the chilling precision of a man well-versed in the art of killing are simply a treasure to behold. Decleir is not only spectacular but he clearly elevates De Zaak Alzheimer to being much more than a typical crime thriller with a twist. Second, it is the smart direction of Erik Van Looy who follows a very unusual formula for his film where the action scenes are counterbalanced with sleek camera moves providing De Zaak Alzheimer with an uncanny nourish feeling.
I am as certain that De Zaak Alzheimer will suffer a Hollywood remake as I am certain that such ludicrous attempt will be a total disaster. There is absolutely nothing that Hollywood can do better yet I am convinced that someone will come up with the idea of "tweaking" the script here and there to make it more suitable for mainstream audiences. It will be a poor attempt! De Zaak Alzheimer has managed to deliver what I find less and less in Hollywood-produced thrillers: quality acting. Add to the mix a very knowledgeable director who certainly seems to have seen plenty of noir features and you have an all-around success story that will keep your eyes glued to the screen for well over two hours.
De Zaak Alzheimer is the winner of the Joseph Plateau Award for Best Belgian Actor (Jan Decleir), Best Belgian Director (Erik Van Looy), Best Belgian Film, and Best Belgian Screenplay (Carl Joos/ Erik Van Looy) (2004); winner of the Audience Award at the Flanders International Film Festival (2003); and winner of the Critics Award at the Cognac Festival du Film Policier (2004).
How Does the DVD Look?
This might very well be one of the best produced DVD's I have seen in a long, very long time. Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's the image quality is simply stunning. The transfer is tight to the frame and virtually flawless. Deep and well saturated colors, impressive contrast, and lack of any edge enhancement transforms this presentation into one of the most spectacular transfers I have seen from SONY PICTURES. There are a few occasional areas where the image looks a bit soft but it is well within what I would consider as acceptable for an "excellent" transfer. Indeed, there is nothing that I could be unhappy with. I suppose one could only wish that all foreign films are treated with such care and impressive visual standards. BRAVO!!!
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with its original Flemish, Dutch, German, and French-mixed soundtrack SONY PICTURES have provided an equally impressive 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track that often sounds as strong as a DTS track. I am very curious to find out who, how, and where, was this track mixed as it sounds simply perfect. There is a massive shooting scene towards the end of the film where the sound of shattered glass is quite unbelievable. Once again, simply lean back, relax, and enjoy!! With optional English subtitles.
Aside from a massive trailer gallery for upcoming SONY releases (foreign film aficionados would want to know that Michael Haneke's Cache is heavily promoted here) this R1 disc offers some very interesting extras. There is a "Behind the Scenes" which offers plenty of footage from the filming process of this Flemish thriller as well as a small section titled "Images from the Theatrical Premiere" where we see an extremely nervous director and some overly excited crowds of filmgoers. It is quite funny to see that even though the film was such an enormous success in its native land the director was so visibly nervous during the premiere. In addition, there is plenty of footage showing Jan Decleir and the rest of the cast.
In addition to the fact that De Zaak Alzheimer is a very well made Flemish thriller with plenty of twists to keep your interest aroused this is also one very, very curious R1 DVD. I am really pleasantly surprised how everything provided by SONY PICTURES in this release is top-notch. Now the question is: how come we don't get to see such excellent treatment more often? I am very impressed with this package and hope that De Zaak Alzheimer will be seen by as many film lovers as possible. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.