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Limey [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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Wilson, a tough English ex-con, travels to Los Angeles to avenge his daughter's death. Upon arrival, he goes to task battling famous record producer, Terry Valentine and an army of LA's toughest criminals, hoping to find clues and piece together what really happened.
Two icons of 60s cinema, Terence Stamp and Peter Fonda, go head-to-head in Steven Soderbergh's stylish reworking of the lone avenger theme. Stamp plays Wilson, an ageing Cockney villain newly out of jail, who arrives in Los Angeles to ask some awkward questions. His beloved daughter, mistress of powerful rock promoter Terry Valentine (Fonda), has died in a car crash; but Wilson's far from convinced it was an accident. With his gaunt, grim features and sparse white hair, Stamp's a dead ringer for the angel of death. Or maybe, as Soderbergh hints with some intricate flashback and flash-forward cutting, the whole story is a dying man's dream of vengeance. Echoes of Get Carter and Point Blank aren't far to seek. Though it's tense, gripping and often funny--Wilson's rhyming-slang dialogue bemuses every American he meets--The Limey is shot through with an aching sense of loss and wasted years. The final showdown between Wilson and Valentine feels like the epitaph of an era once rich in dreams. Some of the film's most poignant moments are its "flashbacks" to Wilson's younger days, which are actually clips from Ken Loach's 1967 movie Poor Cow, featuring the twentysomething Stamp, insolently and heart-breakingly beautiful. --Philip Kemp --This text refers to an alternate DVD edition.See all Product description
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I took this film out thinking it would be a violent, cool, thriller. It is all of those things, but certainly no action movie. More one for the art-house. The script is taut - there are very few wasted words. If you like character-driven movies that make you think, you'll enjoy this. If you're looking for a shoot-'em-up, give it a miss!
Wilson (Stamp), fresh out of prison, travels to Los Angeles to investigate the death of his estranged daughter Jenny (Melissa George). Aided by a couple of her friends, Wilson's trail leads to the last guy Jenny was dating, oily record producer Terry Valentine (Fonda), a guy with more than record producing on his CV.
Steven Soderbergh picks up on a common film noir theme, that of a man seeking revenge for the death of a friend or loved one, and cloaks it in visual and aural artistry. The story as written is simple, undeniably so, yet the narrative structure spins it into a vortex of complexity and psychological disharmony.
Alongside his editor, Sarah Flack, Soderbergh uses flash-backs and flash-forwards to unfurl the plot. Thus we often get a triplicate viewpoint of a scene, such as what will happen, what the antagonist wants to happen or what might happen! It's dizzying stuff but it serves the emotional thrum of the plot beautifully and draws the viewer firmly into Wilson's state of mind. This is the case with dialogue and sound as well, where a current scene will feature previous or future aural snatches. The director also splices in scenes from Wilson's memory banks to marry up the emotional discord, while also deftly using scenes from Stamp's performance in 1967 film Poor Cow (Ken Loach) to show the youthful Wilson from happier times.
If this all sounds like style over substance? Then it is, but The Limey rises above this issue because elsewhere there's other great rewards. Notably Stamp's performance and the counter-point characterisation by Fonda. Stamp, in full cockney spouting mode is having a great time, he has Wilson as a feral man of vengeance, but with a knowing sense of parody, he also exudes a sorrowful guilt at his inadequacies as a father. Fonda has Valentine as a relic of the sixties, he's regressing and constantly looks back. It's a smooth performance from Fonda, weasel like but never over the top in villain terms, and the fact that Stamp and Fonda are mostly kept apart until the finale really helps the characterisations to thrive. Good support comes from Guzman and Warren, though Newman only just convinces as Valentine's "enforcer".
There's good humour to be found here, intentionally so, something that seems to have thrown some folk into thinking Stamp is going over the top. That isn't the case, though, Wilson is a veteran of prison and wry humour is merely one of his defence mechanisms. One of the great scenes in the film sees Wilson launch into a cockney monologue as a stony faced DEA Agent (Bill Duke looking hard as always) listens without understanding a thing he says! It's also worth pointing out that although the story is average, Lem Dobbs' screenplay does throw in a very good ending, a veer from the norm that closes the picture on a strong note. There's so much good about The Limey that it's a safe recommendation to neo-noir fans and fans of Stamp and Soderbergh. 7.5/10
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