|'Its easy to read the ADD editing as something special, but in actual fact it brings little narratively or visually and is harnessed to greater effect by the director in films such as Out Of Sight.'|
Vaunted on release and since by people who Matt Zoller Seitz calls '"Limey"-heads', Steven Soderbergh's The Limey reads now as more of a failed experiment than a successful innovation.
Its most potent 'trick' - a trippy structure which flicks between things which have happened, things which haven't and things which will, but haven't yet - goes curiously un-commented upon in some of the 1999 reviews. Its easy to read the ADD editing as something special, but in actual fact it brings little narratively or visually and is harnessed to greater effect by the director in films such as Out Of Sight. Its use is indicative of the film as a whole; this is Soderbergh attempting to take the genre (the Revenge Thriller) on a stage, but many of his stylistic play points do not come off.
The structure does bring something to The Limey that many of its genre forbearers seem to forget as they advance. You are never in any doubt as to why Wilson (Terence Stamp) is in Los Angeles. Where lesser revenge flicks seem initially intent on setting something right, only to forget all about that once reason has been established for gunplay and violence, Soderbergh's structural and storytelling tweaks continue to force you to remember why Wilson is doing what he is doing. The cockney slang, the slight mockery of Wilson when he mistakes valets for bodyguards, the flashbacks to a young Wilson (Stamp in 1967's Poor Cow - as Zoller Seitz notes, is The Limey a stealth sequel?); we're constantly reminded that the limey is here for one reason and one reason only.
Whilst Soderbergh is attempting to innovate form, he seems to only do so with fairly empty message. The Limey is surely primed to be a neo-Western, Stamp's lone gun wading in to town in search of the villainously named Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda). But Valentine and the wider conspiracy that unfolds seem to hold little interest beyond being more evil than our antihero. There's little here to comment on and little comment offered, which again makes the playful innovation of form somewhat moot; no matter how you dress it up, this story is just never important enough to be fully involving. The closest you get is Wilson's admission that he is a benefits cheat ('they've got me down as an immigrant with five kids'), but it's a stretch to believe this is part of some sort of comment upon Wilson' geographical move West.
Central to the problem is Stamp. A craggy, grieving father when he is silent, he becomes incredibly unconvincing whenever he has to deliver a line. This has always been my problem with Stamp. Whilst he has the appearance and heft, the physical performance, his staccato delivery has never convinced and it doesn't here. '"Limey"-heads' cite his opening 'my name is Wilson... you wrote me about my daughter' as a line proof positive of the film's magnetism. I found it just the opposite.
The Limey was playing on Netflix.