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IN SHORT: Brilliant film auteur concept matched by equally gimmicky film student mentality editing and execution. Rated [R]
Wilson (Terence Stamp), an ex-con Englishman ("The Limey" being slang for his nationality, I'm told) flies to Los Angeles to find the real culprit behind the death of his daughter, whose neck snapped and whose body was burned to a crisp in a violent traffic accident. In his heart, Wilson knows his baby was murdered. With the help of Ed Rowe (Luiz Guzman), a name found in a return address on an envelope, to guide him, Wilson seeks his prey.
Skipping way ahead in the story, here's the core: A "security consultant" (Barry Newman) for high powered record producer Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda), whom Wilson suspects of killing his girl, slips $5,000 cash to two low-life scum hitmen to take out Wilson's potential threat to his boss. Valentine, apparently, had dabbled in drug trafficking on the side and, to cover his pasty white butt, eliminated his way too young girlfriend who had threatened to go to the narcs. It's all a variation on the Death Wish scenario with a bit of mystery for padding.
Here's the problem: The low-life ask the consultant "Who is he? How are we going to find him?" They're told "That's your job." They have no picture. They have no description. They have no idea how a mid-level actress (Leslie Ann Warren) fits into the picture, but two blinks of the eye later, with virtually no effort at all, they find their prey. Only a coincidental appearance by narcs, who have been following the scum seeking a bigger target, spoils the hit. Not only do the cops let the scum go. They don't even question the limey about where he got his gun.
That's a continuing fault in Lem Dobbs' script. There are scenes which are linked by the most tenuous plot threads that you could imagine. Once again you, the audience, have got to let the action carry you over the weakness of the story's roots. That kind of bad writing is almost easy to ignore but director Steven Soderbergh's roots as an editor and indie director famed for sex lies and videotape come back to annoy the hell out of the audience -- deliberately mismatched edits, flashbacks within flashforwards within flashbacks -- every fave indie trick in the book. Cranky wishes more attention had been paid to telling a solid story 'cuz only the arthouse afficionado who is willing to do all the work that Dobbs and Soderbergh should have done will be able to enjoy this.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Limey, he would have paid...
midweek rental level.
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