Though very nearly too stylish for its own good, Steven Soderbergh's Los Angeles revenge tale still grabs you. By the closing credits you'll care enough to be frustrated, but you'll like the movie enough to forgive.Terence Stamp stars in The Limey (1999) as Wilson, a Cockney ex-con who misses the chance to reconcile with his daughter Jenny (Melissa George) when she is killed while he's still in prison.
The Limey is told in a flashback-riddled fashion, where you're never quite sure if you're watching the beginning or the end, but essentially starts where Jenny's life ends: in a fittingly Hollywood-esque cliffside car crash near the mansion of Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda), her megarich boyfriend.
Wilson comes to the Golden State to investigate his daughter's death and, drawing from a mix of blind paternal vengefulness and an almost charming ignorance of American "bad guy" conventions, barrels his way through a maze of shady deals and conspiracies on his way to the truth.
Wilson's outsider status (at one point he mistakes a line of valets for a daunting front of bodyguards) brings more than a few chuckles, but Stamp plays it straight, and his earnest portrayal pays off.
The movie takes us to a world of bad people doing bad things, but pushes us deeper than you'd expect, bringing surprising depth to even fringe characters that would barely rate one-dimensional treatment in your average "thriller." Luis Guzmán is given a real chance to shine as Eduardo Roel, a friend of Jenny's. Even Adhara (Amelia Heinle), Terry's post-Jenny girlfriend, is for once not a bouncy airheaded "other woman" stereotype.
Soderbergh seems to draw parallels between Wilson's world and Terry's, highlighting how "making a living" is never as clean as we'd like it to be, on either side of the tracks. It's also clear that the two men are past their prime and nearing an end of one type or another. Fortunately, though, the director steers clear of most shallow metaphors, and keeps the story to one man's mission: to make Jenny's rich boyfriend pay for her death.
And as the chase comes to a head, and bullets start to fly, Soderbergh unveils the real trick of The Limey. The denouement, not the climax, carries all the weight, and it does so in a familiar flashback rather than a hail of lead.
The ending is just unexpected enough to make a tried-and-true revenge thriller fan angry, or feel cheated. But the more thoughtful types will easily understand.
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© 1997-2008 Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org · Created: 23 February 2004 · Last Modified: 14 January 2008