Limey, The/(SE)B+,A
Artisan/1999/89m/ANA 1.85

     The Limey is an exercise in cool filmmaking by one of the young masters of cinema lexicon. Steven Soderbergh takes this simple tale of revenge and cuts it up into pieces like a ceramic mosaic, displaying each piece with the regularity of recent remembrance. The violence, the cityscapes, the intense trip through Los Angeles, become fragments in an exercise of memory, often adding brilliantly to the material, but also making for much more complex viewing than necessary.  

Lurid Lighting and bold composition emphasize the director's thought process. ©Artisan

     Here's the the direct line approach to the story. Wilson arrives in Los Angeles after getting a letter telling him that his daughter has dies in a car accident. Fresh from a nine-year prison stint for armed robbery, Wilson is not one to waste words or time. He thinks his Jenny is too good a driver to have perished in some reckless spin off the road. He will get to the bottom of this and extract his pound of revenge. That's the whole of it.
     Soderbergh's editing style attempts to replicate the thought process, freely searching back and forth in time, repeating elements. Coming on the heels of Out of Sight, Soderbergh's highly successful film starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, The Limey experiments further with the aggressive editing that was a signpost of the earlier film. The Limey, is as lean in storytelling as the title might suggest. 
     Terrence Stamp is ferocious in the role of Wilson. Every word out of his mouth is delivered with deliberate danger. Clipped syllables emphasize the no-nonsense natural of this character. The resolve of the character is reflected in every close-up of Stamp's eyes. This is a performance developed fromt he inside out. Peter Fonda injects Terry Valentine with a sixties fluidity hardened by an amoral edginess, while Barry Newman is surprising convincing in an unusual role as Avery, Valentine's head of security . 
    Communication with his collaborators is an obvious strength of Soderbergh. Take the score by Cliff Martinez, for instance. This is Martinez's sixth collaboration with Soderbergh. Is it a surprise that his cold, aloof, spare, metronome-beat piano score captures the cool essence of the director's point of view.  
    The experimental nature of the film brings a spontaneity to many of the scenes. Look at the varied use of available light. The scene in which Wilson confronts the warehouse crew when looking for Valentine is lit with lurid fluorescent light. The nightmarish look marries well with the sense memory editing style. Ed Lachman's free-form cinematography has the right energy for Soderbergh's storytelling in The Limey. 
    There are two audio commentaries to help illuminate The Limey experience. Soderbergh and screenwriter Lem Dobbs talk about filmmaking and The Limey in particular like two old friends enjoying each other's company. The observations are consistently candid and there's even a little bit of playful editing distorting the commentary track to echo the style of the film. An alternate audio commentary combines commentary on the film and reflections about the 60's by principals of the film, including Stamp, Fonda, Barry Newman and Lesley Ann Warren. Included with the extras is a fine explanation for the techies in the crowd of how a film becomes a DVD. An examination of the controversy surrounding delivering DVDs in anamorphic widescreen or 4 x 3 letterbox widescreen is accompanied by a minute plus clip transferred both ways, letting you play with the comparison and see the results. 
    This reference quality DVD is meticulously transferred to present the fascinating images accurately. Varied lighting situations maintain individual integrity. Balanced contrast provides excellent shadow detail in the darker sequences, but the DVD really stands out in replicating those unusually lit sequences. Detail is outstanding in all circumstances. You can look deep into the eyes of Terrence Stamp without losing a speck of inspiration. A measure of the color accuracy is as simple as the absolutely perfect transfer of a necktie. The texture of the silk, the perfect containment of the stripes, the depth and strength of color. The Dolby Digital 5:1 surround mix plants details in accurate sections of the home theater and the chords of the Martinez are surrounding by the ambiance of the action. 





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