The Limey

Talking about his movie’s lack of conventionnal badabing badaboom blockbuster hijinx, writer-director Steven Soderbergh says he “didn’t need special effects, he had close-ups of Terence Stamp”. Indeed! Stamp is one of those cooler than thou screen gods like Clint Eastwood, Charlton Heston and Chow-Yun Fat who just has this great voice, this great stare and the voice… A real hard-ass basically. Here he stars as limey (i.e. englishman in local slang) criminal Dave Wilson who just got out of a London prison. During his incarceration, his daughter died, presumably in an auto accident. Yet Wilson has doubts: he believes she was murdered and so he flies to LA, determined to avenge her.

Not much of a plot, right? This is basically yet another revenge movie in which a tough antihero goes from one bloody confrontation to the other until he nails his nemesis and makes him pay. This is like one of these old movies starring Chales Bronson and oh so many lousy straight-to-video thrillers that have been somehow produced over the years. But what makes The Limey such a compelling and enthralling picture is Soderbergh’s kinetic filmmaking. Even more than in 98’s “Out of Sight”, the indie wunderkind’s latest effort forgets everything about conventionnal storytelling and chronology. The film keeps jumping back and forth in time, creating a dizzying fresque of images and impressions. I saw the movie on a plane in a weird state of mind, and that made the experience even more surreal. I mean, don’t expect to really be following a plot. This is pure exercise in style. People start sentences in one scene and finish them in others. It’s shot after shot of quirky beauty, experimental cinematography…. And it’s flashbacks of Wilson’s youth using footage from Stamp’s first movie, Ken Loach’ 1967 “Poor Cow”, in an inspired editing coup. The film could have been very graphic, but the violence is cleverly muted, in the same way it often is in Beat Takeshi films. The camera will stay outside a building and let us hear gunshots and screams instead of following the action, or it will show Stamp’s expression instead of the impact of his bullets.

As far as themes go, you could say that this is a film about guys holding on to the past. Stamp plays that sinister British thug who keeps on getting into dangerous situations even though he’s in his sixties. And faced with him is another legendary actor, Peter Fonda, as a 60s deadbeat record producer Terry Valentine who loves his women, his drugs and his money. Fonda’s real good, and so are actors Bill Duke and Luis Guzman in supporting parts. The film also boasts a killer soundtrack featuring The Who, Steppenwolf and other 60s bands. Altogether, “The Limey” is a very refreshing little crime flick that will delight film fanatics.