Exclusive trailer: See Liam Neeson play a hitman with Alzheimer’s in his thriller ‘Memory’

Liam Neeson has been able to turn action movies into a staple later in his career, though his newest film allows him to explore a deeper character angle.

Directed by Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale”), the psychological thriller “Memory” (in theaters April 29) stars Neeson as Alex Lewis, an expert hitman even as an older man. He’s tasked with a job in El Paso, Texas, but when Alex learns it’s to murder a child, he refuses, leading to a deadly situation where he hunts the folks who hired him while also being pursued by an FBI agent (Guy Pearce). Making matters even more dicey: Alex is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and his memory loss forces him to question every decision he makes.

The movie’s trailer premieres exclusively at usatoday.com.

The film remakes the 2003 Belgian movie “The Memory of a Killer,” which also tackles immigration issues along the U.S./Mexican border, and Neeson says he was attracted to the “immersive, gritty storyline” as well as the role: “It allowed me an opportunity to research the tragic and mysterious conditions of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

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The character’s condition is “deteriorating throughout the movie,” says Campbell, and “what happens to Liam dictates an awful lot of what happens in the plot.” In one scene, Alex goes to a nursing home to visit his brother, who also suffers from Alzheimer’s and is in the later stages of the disease. “Liam’s character was really interesting, somebody who can look into his brother’s face and see a mirror image in himself, how he’s going to end up.”

Campbell, who also directed “GoldenEye” and last year’s “The Protege,” found that Neeson has not only made a lot of action movies following the success of the 2008 hit “Taken” but he actually really enjoys doing them. Plus, Neeson is among a certain group of actors “that no matter whatever their characters are, you actually like them.”

But “Memory” is “not your average Liam Neeson action film at all,” the director adds. “There’s a lot more complexity to it.”

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