Cleverness and pretentiousness collide in writer/director Christopher Nolan’s neo-noir thriller. Based on a short story by Nolan’s brother Jonathan, "Memento" is a crime-revenge story that relies on its one big gimmick: a split and cut reverse structure that will have you checking your pockets for your house keys a dozen times after you leave the theater. Time moves backward in chunks as Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), an ex insurance fraud investigator with a bloodlust for the man who raped and murdered his wife, constantly refreshes his ever collapsing memory. Leonard’s biggest problem is that his wife’s killer knocked him on the head during the episode, giving Leonard the memory span of a flea. Leonard makes notes to himself, gets reminder instructions tattooed all over his body, and takes Polaroid photos, all in an effort at keeping his memory together long enough to track down and kill a man with the initials J.G. Leonard’s one-minute amnesia loops rewind in reverse order after Leonard murders a guy (who may or may not be his wife’s killer) in the film’s opening scene. As the story backs up and replays all over itself, Leonard makes a lot of one sided phone calls to a non-disclosed cop feeding him unreliable information. You will likely get an urge to escape your seat and make some calls of your own.
Rated R. 113 mins. (C-) (Two Stars)