Artisan // 1999 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Harold Gervais (Retired) // March 29th, 2000
"Tell me. Tell me about Jenny."
The Limey is Dave Wilson (Terence Stamp). Wilson is a career criminal who is on leave from his latest stint in prison to deal with the death of his daughter, Jenny. Jenny was an aspiring actress in Hollywood who died at the wheel of her car after supposedly falling asleep. Knowing his daughter, Wilson does not believe it and enters the US to investigate. Once in Los Angeles he meets Jenny's friend Ed (Luis Guzman). Ed points Wilson towards Jenny's boyfriend, Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda). Valentine is a famous record producer from the '60s whose star, of late, has started to fade.
Further investigation brings Wilson to a shady downtown location that may or may not be involved with heroin. A location that Wilson finds out has ties to Valentine. During the course of his mission Wilson meets another friend of Jenny's, Elaine (Lesley Ann Warren). Elaine gives Wilson more insight into the life of his daughter and thru that, insight into his own life as well. The deeper he goes the more Wilson becomes convinced Valentine is involved with the death of his daughter. After crashing a party at Valentine's house, Wilson comes into conflict with Valentine's "security consultant" Avery (Barry Newman). Avery puts a contract out on Wilson life which brings some rogue DEA agents into the mix and the films spirals towards it's inevitable and violent climax.
The Limey is directed by Steven Soderbergh (sex, lies and videotape, Kafka, Out of Sight and the current hit Erin Brockovich) and written by Lem Dobbs (Kafka, Dark City). At 89 minutes the film is very lean and very mean. It is written and directed in a nonlinear and fragmented style that gives what would ordinarily be a simple revenge thriller, a neat and welcome twist.
Every time one of the main characters is introduced we are shown a montage of clips from all over the film, clips that gain a different meaning when finally shown in context. In the commentary track, Soderbergh refers to this almost as a trailer for the character. It is very inventive and it certainly brings the viewer into the film and it's characters. There is one particular sequence involving Wilson and Elaine where the same story is being told but it is intercut from four different locations. It gives a good sense of how memories change from person to person and makes for great filmmaking.
Much has been made of the character of Dave Wilson and whether or not The Limey is a sequel of sorts to a Ken Loach film from the '60s called Poor Cow. Poor Cow also starred Terence Stamp and was about a young jewel thief named Dave. For the memory sequences Soderbergh cut to footage from Poor Cow to show a young Stamp. On the commentary track Soderbergh and Dobbs argue about this very issue. Soderbergh likes to think yes, The Limey is a continuation of sorts and Dobbs is very strongly no. An interesting debate that really does not matter in the context of the actual film but does give The Limey another layer of subtext.
As Wilson, Stamp is very impressive. He brings a great deal of weight to the character. In his tight, angry face we see a lifetime of struggles and disappointments. In great '60s fashion, Wilson is a classic anti-hero on a mission of vengeance.
As his opposite number, Fonda is equally effective as the venal Valentine. Valentine is presented almost as a poster child for the lost innocence and possibility of the '60s. A man who had it all but now clings and gravitates to people who were everything he and a generation was against. Both Stamp and Fonda carry with them a great deal of personal baggage. Baggage that is used to great effect to set each character apart and point them at opposite sides of the scale. It is brilliant casting.
As Valentine and Wilson's "body guards" both Newman and Guzman deliver very strong work. Also in support, the wonderful Lesley Ann Warren is just that and in an uncredited cameo, actor/director Bill Duke gives Wilson the information that leads to the film's final act in a scene that is both funny and chilling. One also has to wonder if that scene is a precursor to Soderbergh's upcoming film about the failure of the war on drugs, Traffic.
Artisan does a spectacular job with the audio and video end of this disc. Presented in it's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, The Limey is given a beautiful anamorphic transfer. Images are perfectly sharp but not so much that they look unnatural. Colors are true and nicely saturated. And all of the nighttime and shadowy sequences are solid with zero bleed or shimmer.
Two audio tracks are provided. One in 2-channel Dolby Surround and the other in Dolby 5.1. Both are quality listening experiences. The film is very dialogue-driven and both tracks are clear and easy to listen to. However, it is on the 5.1 track the film's music is given the opportunity to shine. From the Who's classic song "Seeker" and other rock classics to Cliff Martinez's haunting and dissonant score, The Limey sounds great.
The Rebuttal Witnesses While not a jam-packed special edition, Artisan has given us a couple of really cool supplements. The main attractions are the two commentary tracks. The first is a scene specific track with director Soderbergh and screenwriter Dobbs. The other is called a "'60s docu-commentary" with actors Stamp, Fonda, Warren, Newman, Joe Dallsandro and occasionally Soderbergh and Dobbs. Both are interesting and worthwhile. The Soderbergh/Dobbs track talks about the film and what went into it's production. The discussion also gets quite heated between the two. There are more than a couple of points where Dobbs is basically accusing Soderbergh of sabotaging his work with scene deletions and changes. Although Dobbs does admit that if he were a disinterested party seeing the film for the first time he would think the movie is pretty good. Soderbergh replies that in the end, that is all that matters. Who is right and who is wrong? It is a great track and a great way to get into the minds of two very different people and the way they both approached the same material. Be warned, neither man is shy about the language that he uses. Not listening for the kids or the easily offended. The second track is much more free form. Both Stamp and Fonda talk extensively about the time period that they and their characters came of age in and how they went about constructing their performances. The track really is their show and it is worth the time.
For all the discussion of cut scenes from Dobbs, it would have been nice to see some of what he was talking about but none are there. It is the only thing holding this disc back from the highest possible recommendation. Some of the other features that are included are an isolated music track featuring Cliff Martinez's score. There is also a demonstration of what the film looks like with and without anamorphic enhancement. It is very interesting and informative.
There are of course trailers and TV spots, production notes and some of the most exhaustive cast and crew bios that I have ever scene. All in all a very satisfying disc.
This is certainly a top notch disc from Artisan. Given the work they put in on this and such recent discs as Stir of Echoes and The Blair Witch Project they are a studio to watch. It is almost enough to forgive them for the butcher job they did on one of my all-time favorite films, John Sayles' Matewan. Which is the "real" Artisan? I can only hope it is the Artisan that took the time to put out this version of The Limey.
To my mind, this is one of the best discs so far in 2000 and I see no reason why it does not belong on any collector's shelf.
Artisan and everyone involved with The Limey are congratulated on a job well done and are free to leave the court on their own recognizance. Thank you for your time. Good day and case dismissed.
Review content copyright © 2000 Harold Gervais; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Filmmakers' Commentary - Steven Soderbergh (Director), Lem Dobbs (Writer)
* '60s Docu-commentary - Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda, Lesley Ann Warren, Barry Newman and Joe Dallesandro with more comments from Lem Dobbs and Steven Soderbergh
* Trailer and TV Spots
* Isolated Music Score
* Production Notes
* Theatrical Specifications
* Cast and Crew Information