Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Limey

Name That Film
Originally uploaded by Oh! NoNo Joe!
The Limey is one of the most confusingly told tales I have ever seen committed to film. I’m not saying that the film is indiscernible, but they way in which Steven Soderbergh chose to weave the film together is one of the most unique things I have ever seen. I have spent the better part of my time since watching the film last night trying to understand the flow of the film, and have decided that to do so would consist of at least 3-4 consecutive views of the film. While the film would be worth this degree of study, I simply don’t have the time as I am no longer a film student.

Part of what fascinates me about The Limey is that the story is one of the most basic concepts that can be imagined, yet the way it is put together gives it a layer of complexity and meaning that would not otherwise be ascribed to the text.

The tale is one of revenge, plain and simple. Wilson is a career criminal who has just been paroled after 9 years in prison and has been informed that his daughter Jenny was killed in a car accident in California; however, that the circumstances of the accident seem a little too perfect to be random. Saddened and fueled by a new mission, Wilson comes to America to seek out more information on his daughter’s life here and realizes that her live-in boyfriend, music producer Terry Valentine is the likely culprit of her death and is able to track down the illegal dealings that lead to Jenny’s unfortunate passing. Wilson has one goal: make Terry suffer for his daughter and take out anyone that gets in the way.

What makes The Limey so unique is not only its utter lack of subplots, but the way past, present and future are laid out. When watching the film the audience is never sure if what they are seeing is a flash forward, flashback, the character’s imagination or present time; all of these elements are cut together at any given time, and repeated multiple times until they create the psychological underpinnings that take Wilson from being a one dimensional character to a complex & conflicted protagonist.

I have several theories about the images that are shown, the visual clues Soderbergh creates, and the actual timeline of the film, but I am not comfortable sharing them without at least one more viewing of the film under my belt.

Perhaps what stood out to me most is Terence Stamp as the character of Wilson. The first few minutes all I could think of was “this is Zod from Superman II”, but that quickly faded and I was immersed in Wilson and his world. If his acting in the film weren’t half as good as it is, you would still have to applaud him for his ability to deliver his lines using the confusing Cockney rhyming slang that allows his character to be such a puzzling entity to the American’s in the film. The use of this vernacular adds to the confusing nature of the film and underscores Wilson’s differences between he and the people around him, and for the educated linguist makes him a more credible British criminal.

The Limey is not an easy film to watch. In fact, it’s one of the only film that I can think of in recent memory that I was actually uncomfortable watching for the first 10-20 minutes simply because I could not figure out how the story was unfolding and what the images meant. However, to a person who appreciates cinema and the language used to create it, The Limey is an essential film to have under your belt and much easier to stomach than a Bergman film.

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Lem Dobbs
Wilson: Terence Stamp
Elaine: Lesley Ann Warren
Eduardo: Luiz Guzman
Stacy: Nicky Katt
Terry Valentine: Peter Fonda
Adhara: Amelia Heinle
Jenny: Melissa George

Wilson: [peering over railing] What are we standing on?
Ed: Trust?

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