Wilson (Terence Stamp) is new in Los Angeles. A career criminal in his native Britain, he has recently been released from prison after nine years for armed robbery, although he's not entrirely convinced he was the one who deserved to do the time. Being in jail meant he could not see his daughter Jenny (Melissa George) and now he will never meet her again because right before he got out, she was killed in an apparent car accident. Wilson, however, believes there was foul play involved and makes up his mind to hunt down the man he is convinced is responsible...
A film about regret and the ghosts of the past as well as getting even, The Limey was a crime thriller along conventional lines that rose above what could have been strictly run of the mill by implementing some eccentric touches. Some of those touches could be seen in the editing, which flitted around through time to reflect the manner in which memories kept surfacing for the characters, but the most striking aspect was in Stamp's highly individual performance, which was packed with Cockney slang to confound the Americans he meets.
In the initial stages, Stamp's Wilson seems awkward and artificial, which only contributes to his fish out of water status, but he is less that than a thorn in the bad guys' side. After spending more time in his company the viewer begins to grow accustomed to his strangely unselfconscious or unaware acting, with Wilson's unwillingness to compromise all too fitting for the story. But Lem Dobbs' script has resonance as well, not simply because of the screen baggage that Stamp brings with him - this being bolstered by clips from Ken Loach's sixties film Poor Cow to represent the lead's past.
Adding to that sense of living with yesteryear is a cast including such sixties survivors as Joe Dallesandro as a none too bright hitman, Barry Newman as the bad guy's right hand man and perhaps the most signiifcant of all, Peter Fonda as Terry Valentine, a big shot record producer who has got in over his head with a drugs deal that the authorities cannot help but notice. It is Valentine who is Wilson's chief suspect, and we think that he's justified in that assumption because, well, who else could it be after all? This is not a whodunnit, or even a whydunnit so much, more a way of seeing if its antihero can secure satisfaction.
Of course, Wilson and Valentine share guilt over Jenny, Wilson because he now feels he let her down with his criminal lifestyle and was not able to be there for her when she needed him most. In many ways, his crusade to bring Valentine to book for what he has done is his last chance to make up to his daughter, and while there are amsuing bits with the culture clash and, for example, Wilson casually flinging a bodyguard over the railings of Valentine's clifftop home, there's a melancholy to The Limey. Much of that stems from the belief that those sixties veterans did not live up to the dreams of their generation and have scuppered the current one, an impression that perhaps sadly endures with each decade. But seeing the smarmy, self-assured Valentine get his comeuppance at the hands of this force of vengeance can only make up for so much before the regret sets in once more. Music by Cliff Martinez.
Versatile American writer, director and producer whose Sex Lies and Videotape made a big splash at Cannes (and its title has become a cliche). There followed an interesting variety of small films: Kafka, King of the Hill, noir remake The Underneath, Schizopolis (which co-starred his ex-wife) and Gray's Anatomy.
Then came Out of Sight, a smart thriller which was successful enough to propel Soderbergh into the big league with The Limey, Erin Brockovich, Oscar-winning Traffic and classy remake Ocean's 11. When Full Frontal and his Solaris remake flopped, he made a sequel to Ocean's 11 called Ocean's 12, material he returned to with Ocean's 13. Che Guevara biopics, virus thriller Contagion and beat 'em up Haywire were next, with the director claiming he would retire after medication thriller Side Effects and Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra. He returned after a period of even greater activity with heist flick Logan Lucky and his first horror, Unsane.