Ric Roman Waugh, 2013
"They've had their 2000 years. Now it's our turn!"
In an aggressively non-linear fashion, The Limey (li*mey, noun: an English gentleman) tells the story of Wilson (Terrence Stamp), a British ex-con just released from a 9 year stint in prison for armed robbery. He has come to the US to seek vengeance for the death of his daughter Jenny. He doesn’t know much about the circumstances of her demise, all he has is a name: Terry Valentine. Valentine was Jenny’s former boyfriend, a wealthy and corrupt record executive. He’s played by Peter Fonda, in his first major role since the terrific Ulee’s Gold in 1997.
Seeking Valentine’s reclusive place of residence turns out to be no easy task for Wilson. He finally finds the impressive abode high in the mountains and sneaks in just as Valentine is having a big party. He winds up breaking his cover eventually, setting off Valentine’s head of security and Valentine himself, who decides to run for it.
What a mess. I have no problem when films refuse to be constricted by the linearity of time — Pulp Fiction, which twisted time every which way, was a masterpiece — but I do take exception to movies that decide to play around with it for no reason other than to confuse the viewer. The Limey does exactly that. The plot is permeated with flashbacks, flash-forwards and what can only be described as random time-travel, without any evident purpose. There is no method to this movie’s madness. It uses a fancy way to tell a story that would be better off told more conventionally and more comprehendably.
The plot isn’t particularly interesting in the first place: traditional, mildly hackneyed and not very involving. This is a sort of brooding film — our protagonist doesn’t speak much and the action sequences are done with an annoyingly perfunctory attitude. I felt like the director wasn’t very interested in the proceedings himself, almost like he made this film for a paycheck. Ditto for the editing, which seems to be deliberately sloppy and unpleasant.
Sixties icon Terrence Stamp manages to at least be menacing as the aging criminal. He’s not much in the way of stature but he has a surprisingly imposing physical presence that works to his advantage here. Peter Fonda is an unbelievably underrated actor: he’s shy, quiet but always effective. He’s adept at conveying emotions through speech rather than expression: his feelings don’t always show on his face by you can always tell what they are.
This is basically a conventional thriller told in a pretentiously bizarre fashion. Why Soderbergh couldn’t just parrot down and tell a story, I don’t know, but what he does do certainly doesn’t work. The result is a wild cornucopia of images that amount to precisely nil — even the action scenes don’t work. 1999 may have signified the death of the traditional act one – act two – act three storyline, but obviously some movies have not yet transcended it. Shall we go back to basics?
-- Eugene Novikov