The Limey

After spending another summer watching and reviewing movies starring and aimed at teenagers, what a pleasure it is to spend quality time with some old friends.

limeypictureHollywood’s obsession with everything young (I would swear some of the new directors are still being potty trained) has virtually pushed anyone over the age of fifty out the back door. With few exceptions (Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Jack Nicholson), unless you’re young and pretty you’re old and used up.

Thank goodness there are filmmakers like Steve Soderbergh, who understand the benefits of casting talent rather than image. Since his stunning debut with “Sex, Lies & Videotape,” Soderbergh’s films have been an oasis for actors who know their craft more than they know how many zits are on the end of their nose.

Soderbergh’s success with last years “Out of Sight” has allowed him to make “The Limey,” a wonderful little movie that probably won’t make a dime at the box office but emerges as one of the season’s most interesting and compelling films.

What distinguishes “The Limey” is that the four central characters are all played by actors in the prime of their lives. Granted, there is some young flesh on display, but it is senior members of the cast who make the film feel lived in.

Terence Stamp delivers a mature, finely etched performance as Wilson, the title character who has just arrived in Los Angeles to investigate the mysterious death of his daughter. Wilson, just released from prison after a decade, is anxious to rekindle his relationship with his daughter. When he learns that she died in an auto accident, he feels incensed to learn the truth.

Stamp perfectly conveys the disillusionment of a man who has let life slip away from him, and is willing to do what ever it takes to bring closure to his pain. The intensity in his eyes are more than enough proof that this is one man you don’t want to cross.

Upon arriving in Los Angeles, Wilson looks up his daughter’s old friend Ed (Luis Guzman), who points him in the right direction. All fingers point to sleazy record producer Valentine (Peter Fonda), whose shady dealings may have been responsible for the death of Wilson’s daughter.

Working from a right, literate script by Lem Dobbs (“Dark City”), Soderbergh skillfully manipulates a simple, straight forward tale of revenge into a dizzying blend of emotional confrontations and action. Soderbergh tweaks the time-line of the film, so you’re never sure where you are in the film.

Ever since Quentin Tarantino altered the time-line in “Pulp Fiction,” other filmmakers have tried to follow suit, but usually with poor results. Soderbergh pushes the envelope, a technique that not only works for the film, but also keeps the audience guessing. His images betray the linear structure of the script.

Peter Fonda, so brilliant in “Ulee’s Gold,” is perfect as Valentine. Fonda brings a been there-done that attitude to the role, and you honestly believe that his character not only experienced the sixties, but was a vital force in it. Barry Newman, another veteran actor, is strong as Valentine’s chief of security. You feel his frustration when all of his years of experience aren’t enough to keep his client safe.

Wilson finds an ally in Elaine, his daughter’s voice instructor. Like Wilson, there is a lot of disillusionment in Elaine’s life, and Lesley Ann Warren convinces us of that fact. Even though she has a simple, comfortable life, Warren makes us feel that Elaine’s dreams are pretty much that. I especially liked the connection between Wilson and Elaine, who understand each other’s disappointment.

There isn’t a bad performance in “The Limey.” Each performance is integral to the film. There is no fat in the film. Soderbergh and Dobbs pare everything down to their bare essentials, never once relenting. Hard hitting and lean, “The Limey” is one of those great little movies that gets in, gets the job done, and then makes a quick exit.

Director of photography Ed Lachman captures Los Angeles in a soothing, almost golden glow, while editor Sarah Flick is to be commended for creating sense out of the film’s bouncing time line. I also appreciated Cliff Martinez’s snappy score, which punctuates the highs and lows with accuracy.

“The Limey” could be classified as a mature version of “Payback.” The scenarios and the main character’s unrelenting pursuit of the truth and justice are similar. What sets the two apart is that Soderbergh trusts his actors more than the material, and by doing so creates uncommon depth. His characters come with a lot of baggage, and the actors who play them have packed for the occasion.



Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda, Lesley Ann Warren, Barry Newman, Luis Guzman, Nicky Katt, Amelia Heinle in a film directed by Steve Soderbergh. Rated R. 97 Minutes.


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