27 November 1999 | Joe Moretti
Stylish Limey Is Not Your Run of the Mill Crime Thriller
The very stylish and simple "The Limey" has me quite baffled. After digesting this movie for a while, I am still not quite sure what to make of it and more importantly, what exactly is it about. On the surface "The Limey" seems like a straightforward geriatric "Deathwish" with its theme of revenge. Go deeper and it is more a character study of a man who has devoted his entire being to a "life of crime" and dealing with a culture that he is not entirely familiar with. Look sideways and it deals with hard core men who are over-the-hill attempting to hang on to their lost youth and vitality by being tough (even though their bodies can't quite cut it anymore), wearing expensive designer suits with tinted glasses and having very young beautiful women by their side. Whatever the case may be director Steven Soderbergh, of the very sexy and stylish but much more superior "Out of Sight" with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, knows who to handle the crime drama/thriller with panache and style like no one else.
Dave Wilson (the very good Terrence Stamp), a smart, intense criminal just released from prison heads to LA from London to look into the somewhat mysterious death of his daughter, who he barely knew. He believes she died at the hands of her boyfriend, legendary and majorly rich record producer Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda) and will not stop until he tracks him down for answers.
The plot here of avenging father seems pretty much lame and not that interesting or complicated at all, but maybe that is the point, not everything in life is extraordinary, in fact much of life is standard, simple and uneventful. But the plot does not so much drive this movie as do the characters. In a world of 16-year-old superstar models, actors and singers, it is totally refreshing to see a movie where the majority of characters are over 40, many over the sixty mark. Even the hitmen of this movie are past their prime. These criminal characters are not your typical stock characters of most crime films, some are regular Joes who happen to have chosen crime as their career aspirations and deal with the same problems as the typical 9 to 5 office worker. As the one hitman hired by Valentine's head security Avery (Barry Newman) says, "I embrace my lifestyle".
While the acting is top notch, especially Stamp, Fonda and Newman, the real star of the film is director, Soderbergh and especially cinematographer Ed Lachman. Soderbergh cuts so many different scenes back and forth with a flair that I have not experienced yet as with a character speaking in one scene and finishing the sentence in another. His use of flashbacks of a young Terrence Stamp incorporating Stamp's 1967 film, "Poor Cow", are not only genius but a great homage to the actor. Also when we first meet the Fonda character, the background music has lyrics that include "easy rider is a curse". Just great. He also seems to get amazing performances from his actors as he did with Clooney and Lopez in last years "Out of Sight". Fonda still riding high from 1997's "Ulee's Gold" does well with the character of Valentine, showing a very vulnerable, insecure and weak man who hides behind wealth and power. Stamp delivers an intense and powerful, yet totally focused, subtle and real performance that is very rare in this film genre. It is a memorable performance and character. Cinematographer, Lachman, does an amazing job with shots that are standard fare, but gives them a different angel that make them stand out such as a scene where Wilson tosses one of Valentine's body guards over a balcony into the canyon below. Your typical cinematographer would have focused on this. Instead Lachman has this scene in the far background while the main shot is of Valentine having a good time at his party feeling totally safe and relaxed in his multi-million dollar home.
So the bottom-line, is "The Limey" a great film, I don't think so. Did I love it, not really. Was I bored with it, no quite. I guess it captured my interest in a different and quiet way that most films don't and for that I recommend it. Also when was the last time you saw 70's semi-icons, Barry Newman (TV's 1974 Petrocelli), Leslie Ann Warren and once hunky Andy Warhol mainstay, Joe Dallesandro. Recommended.