Saturday, May 9, 2009

THE LIMEY (Steven Soderbergh, 1999, USA) A father journeys into his own heart of darkness, a seeker of answers tainted by regrets and mistakes, searching for the truth of his daughter’s death and finding only himself to blame. Director Steven Soderbergh envisions a stark and violent character study of an obsessive father who must know why his daughter died…and who was responsible. Terence Stamp’s bravura performance as Wilson the vengeful patriarch is violently empathetic, at once imbuing the protagonist with intense outbursts and gentle repose, his gunpowder retribution existing outside the metaphysical realm of moral order. Stamp carries the film with his Cockney slang and subtle inflections, at once imposing a riposte humor contrasted by his inhuman brutality. The supporting cast plays against his persona perfectly with Luis Guzman and Lesley Ann Warren as his only links to a disintegrating reality, and Peter Fonda as the object of his murderous desire. Soderbergh utilizes disparate editing techniques to induce frisson: flashforwards and flashbacks dominate the narrative structure, and dialogue is often juxtaposed out of sequence. This unorthodox editing heightens the suspense as the pieces finally fit together to deconstruct the crime thriller genre by giving us an introspective and thoughtful climax: the payoff is not what we expect. The sparse soundtrack is an ominous and lonely dirge of self-destruction, punctuated by sixties rock zeitgeist as defining the antagonist and his free fall from grace. The background sound often speaks in the lulling whispers of the ubiquitous surf, a soft accusation that condemns two men for their transgressions (and aggressions) but offers them hope. Wilson growls: “Tell me about Jenny” while Valentine grovels on the rocky shore, but he already knows the answer. Satisfied, he understands that the thing he thinks he wanted wasn’t that thing at all. He lives free to keep his daughter’s memory alive: for Jenny. (A)


Radiation Cinema! said...

"My name's . . . Wilson." I loved, loved, loved this movie. Stamp is his usual greatness, but Peter Fonda was the surpise. I also thought Nicky Katt and Andy Warhol icon Joe Delesandro were the creepiest pair of hitmen in film history. Great post.

By the way, the new and imporved Korova Theatre is the goddamn coolest thing in the world. I am deep, deep green with jealousy. -- Mykal

Alex DeLarge said...

Thanks Mykal! This is a great overlooked film in Soderbergh's career and hope more fiml-lovers discover this gem. Check out THE HIT & BILLY BUDD for two awesome Terence Stamp performances.