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With: Terence Stamp, Lesley Ann Warren, Luis Guzman, Peter Fonda, Melissa George, Nicky Katt
Written by: Lem Dobbs
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language
Running Time: 89
Date: 05/15/1999

The Limey (1999)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Brit Stop

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Steven Soderbergh has one of the most interesting and diverse track records of any director. After his huge Sundance success sex, lies & videotape (1989), he turned to a black-and-white surreal mystery story, Kafka (1991), from a screenplay by the legendary Lem Dobbs, which quickly disappeared. His rather mainstream King of the Hill (1993) was another critical hit, and his The Underneath (1995) quickly disappeared. He then directed a Spalding Gray monologue, Gray's Anatomy (1996), and a really strange, very low-budget, very independent movie starring himself, Schizopolis (1997). Back in the mainstream, he directed one of last year's best movies, the Elmore Leonard crime story Out of Sight, which made far less money than it deserved.

Now Soderbergh returns to the crime genre, but The Limey couldn't be more different than Out of Sight, except for the fact that it's just as good. The Limey reunites Soderbergh with screenwriter Dobbs, who also co-wrote last year's Dark City. Most viewers will have a hard time sitting through The Limey, as it takes a very radical approach to its storytelling. Not unlike the early French New Wave movies like Breathless (1960), The Limey uses lots of flashbacks, flash-forwards, and jump cuts. For example, two men (Terence Stamp and Luis Guzman) are having a conversation at a table over a cigarette. Their dialogue continues over the scene, but while we listen, we see shots of Stamp sitting on a plane, of Stamp and Guzman riding in a car, of Stamp lighting a cigarette while his voice is heard on the soundtrack, etc. Essentially, the past, present, and future all collide. It can be disorienting, but it's also exhilarating.

The plot has Terence Stamp as a British criminal newly released from jail traveling to Los Angeles to find out how his daughter has died. Guzman (also in Out of Sight) and Lesley Ann Warren both play friends who knew the daughter when she was alive and they lend Stamp a hand. Peter Fonda plays a sleazy music business executive who likes keeping beautiful young girls around. Another ingenious idea that Soderbergh and Dobbs came up with was to incorporate footage from an old Stamp movie called Poor Cow (1967, directed by Ken Loach) and evolve Stamp into an older version of that character. These flashbacks lend a whole new dimension to Stamp's character, who is named "Wilson" in both the old footage and the new movie. There's a wonderful late-afternoon, lost, sad feel to this Los Angeles. And, like some of our best crime movies, it doesn't feel the need to hurry. It brings the crime movie to the level of art. The suspense is secondary after the characters and the atmosphere. But the odds are that very few people will actually see it. But you heard it here first. The Limey is an outstanding movie, well worth your time.

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