Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I would imagine the goal of anybody who does anything is to have someone take time out of their busy day to log on to the Internet and get on some forum board to proclaim how bad you suck.  Because quite honestly nobody is logging on to tell these people how bad THEY suck because they aren’t doing anything.  I mention this because while revisiting director Steven Soderbergh’s film from 1999 ‘The Limey’ I ran across a thread proclaiming Soderbergh as the ‘Worst Director Ever’.  Of course there’s no truth that statement but the fact that somebody went through all that trouble to post such nonsense means that they are still talking about you, which means you must be doing something right.  So when somebody yells in caps RUSH LIMBAUGH SUCKS or ALEX RODUIGUEZ SUCKS or MADONNA SUCKS then I imagine that makes those guys joyful because it means they are still relevant and are probably making money.   So I guess one day when I get somebody posting on the net that CHRISTOPHER ARMSTEAD SUKKS AZZ, then I know I am on my way.  Anyway, when I watched the Limey 8 years ago, I remember enjoying it immensely.  How good is it today?  It got me wondering.

General Zod (Terence Stamp) is Wilson, who in Great Britain is a career criminal flying into Los Angeles after getting word that his daughter Jennifer (Melissa George) has died in a car accident.  Wilson finds that highly unlikely as his daughter is far too cautious to have died in such a manner and is going to get the bottom of this tragedy, no matter what.  Assisted by Jennifer’s friends Eduardo (Luis Guzman) and Elaine (Leslie Ann Warren) Wilson discovers that his daughter was keeping company with an old sixties record industry executive named Valentine (Peter Fonda), who on first sight Wilson can tell almost immediately that the well coiffed man with the blindingly white teeth is up to no damn good.

In town for probably less than a day, the extremely hostile Brit has already killed a number of people putting the fear of God into the already skittish Valentine.  Fortunately Valentine has a ‘get it done’ man by the name of Avery (Barry Newman) who makes arrangements to have Wilson eliminated.  Easier said than done as the wily Brit as pretty tough to put down.  Eventually Wilson does get to the bottom of the mystery of his daughter’s death, revealing to him a sullen, unsatisfying truth on how he’s lived his life.

Re-visiting ‘The Limey’ some years later only heightened my enjoyment of the film, leaving me to declare that this is Soderbergh’s best film ever, and that includes his highly heralded ‘Traffic’.  Terence Stamp, who has never been the most expressive actor around, has his two major emotions – complete cool and absolute rage – fit in almost the most perfect role for the actor since, well, General Zod back in ‘Superman’.  Also raising the ante for my total enjoyment of ‘The Limey’ is a classic scene between an un-credited Bill Duke as a DEA agent chief and Stamp which rates among my favorite scenes in movie history, with Bill Duke delivering one of the greatest lines in movie history. 

The film is non-linear in its delivery, in a somewhat Soderbergh style which works quite well in this movie, that in my opinion didn’t work so well in some of his other films, such as the overrated  ‘Solaris’.  Here on the other hand the fractured narrative intercut with a young Terrance Stamp in scenes lifted from 1967’s ‘Poor Cow’ works wonders for the story and gives us a view of Wilson’s tainted morality and shows us that he exists in a completely lawless vacuum.  It also helps that practically nobody under the age of sixty and not from England has ever seen ‘Poor Cow’.  Peter Fonda is also quite good as the incredibly vain and self-centered record producer, who also receives a nod from his once glorious past with a song referencing ‘Easy Rider’.  All of the cast members did great work, especially Nicky Katt as a scurrilous hitman who I would bet improvised the vast majority of his lines.

‘The Limey’ is a story that has no heroes and possesses no villains which is another reason I enjoyed it so much.  Wilson is violent and self serving who is satisfying his need for revenge for his own selfish reasons.  If he cared for his daughter so much then he wouldn’t have picked the life path he ended up choosing.  Valentine is a passive, cowardly man who one could conceive that he cared for Jennifer even more than her father, but ultimately couldn’t get out of the way of his own vanity.  Truly a remarkable film and certainly one worth viewing if you haven’t had a chance to see it.

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