The Limey

Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda, Lesley Ann Warren, Luis Guzmán, Barry Newman.
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language.

Review by Matt Heffernan
October 24, 1999

This has been quite a year for the fledgling Artisan Entertainment. They made the deal of the century when they bought The Blair Witch Project, probably the all-time biggest return on the dollar spent. They followed up with an in-house produced horror film, Stir of Echoes, that I thought was really good, even if it was poorly timed after The Sixth Sense. Now, they hope to cash in again with Terence Stamp, who was already in the biggest film of the year: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.

A man called Wilson (Stamp), a career criminal who has spent his life in and out of English prisons, receives a letter from Los Angeles after he finishes a nine-year sentence. His daughter, Jenny, was killed in a car that went off a cliff and caught fire. Suspecting foul play, Wilson flies to America to investigate the situation, and get revenge if his suspicions are correct.

He meets Ed (Luis Guzmán), a friend of Jenny's who sent him the letter, and he finds out that she was living with Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda), a record producer with shady connections. Wilson blazes a trail of destruction, making it clear that he wants Valentine's head. Valentine learns of this, and gets his bodyguard, Avery (Barry Newman), on the job.

One thing I couldn't help noticing about The Limey was how evocative it was of Fonda's 1997 film: Ulee's Gold. Except this time, our hero isn't quite as sympathetic. There is a slick edge to this film, and Stamp's performance adds the perfect note to Wilson's wild crusade. Lem Dobbs' (Dark City) screenplay tries to go for the same type of humor found in Kurosawa's Yojimbo, except that Wilson's motives are less noble, and he is after blood, not money.

Director Steven Soderbergh (Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Out of Sight), employs several devices to reinforce the theme of chaos. He uses a lot of handheld camerawork, and mixes it in with quick edits between the present action, flashbacks, and Wilson's fantasies about how he will make his next move. This style can be quite exciting, but it gets overused to the point of monotony. The result often appears to be a surreal episode of "NYPD Blue".

If you really want to see Stamp do the revenge thing, watch Superman II. He played General Zod, banished to limbo in the first film, and comes back in this one to take over Earth, and kill Superman for his father's actions. That will probably remain as my favorite role of his.

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The Limey (1999)

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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan