Dir:Erik Van Looy. Belgium. 2003. 120mins
Everyoneis looking for the fresh twist that can raise a thriller out of the ranks ofthe ordinary. Erik Van Looy appears to have found it in The Alzheimer Case.The twist here is a hired killer turned avenging angel struggling with theonset of Alzheimers. His faltering memory, wounded pride and bleak prognosisinevitably add echoes of Memento to a multi-layered story of crime andpunishment.
This is slick, commercialfilm-making in the manner of The Crimson Rivers and Infernal Affairs,which took just under $6m at home and won a slew of prizes at the BelgianJoseph Plateau Awards including Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor.
Now Belgium's entry for BestForeign Language Oscar, it is ripe for an English-language remake especially ifit could attract a character actor like Gene Hackman or someone of similarstature. Very little would be needed to be altered, although some of the plot complexities might benefitfrom a slighter sharper rewrite.
There are enough crimefiction fans and thriller lovers to also ensure an audience for the originaland repay modest hopes from international distributors.
An adrenaline-fuelledopening sequence follows undercover detective Eric Vincke (Koen de Bouw) as hisattempts to gather evidence against a paedophile ring that may have links togovernment ministers.
The story then switches toMarseilles where veteran hit man Angelo Ledda (Jan Decleir) is hired toundertake two contracts in Antwerp. When he discovers that his second target isa young girl he refuses to complete the job claiming that no self-respectingassassin would kill a child.
When the girl is killedanyway, his sense of disgust is enough to transform him into a one-man justicesystem. Working his way through the guilty parties, he becomes part of a catand mouse game played with Vincke as all the elements of the case graduallycome together.
There are times when
Van Looy strives to give itmore of a cinematic edge and its easy to spot the influence of a David Fincheror a Michael Mann in his fondness for neon light, overheard camera shots andapocalyptic weather conditions.
The characterisations alsomake a difference, especially the killer Ledda. His actions may appal but thereis also an instinctive sympathy for his sense of moral outrage andold-fashioned professionalism. Decleir's dour, granite-like presence never begsfor pity but there is an inevitable poignancy as he grows more troubled by hisAlzheimers and like Guy Pearce in Mementouses his body to leave notes and jog the memory. In an earlier era, it mighthave been a fantastic role for a Lino Ventura or a Jean Gabin.
Prod co: MMG Productions
Int sales: The Works
Prods: Erwin Provoost, Hilde DeBaere
Scr: Carl Joos, Erik Van Looy,based on the novel by Jef Geeraerts
Cine: Danny Elsen
Prod des: Johan Van Essche
Ed: Philippe Ravoet
Music: Stephen Warbeck
Main cast: Jan Decleir, Koen DeBouw, Werner de Smedt, Jo De Meyere, Gena Bervoets