Friday, April 26, 2013

The Limey

Get out your guns and blow, we're reviewing The Limey!
When Wilson (Terence Stamp) gets out of jail and finds his daughter has died in an "accident," he travels to L.A. to find out what really happened. With the help of a cook, Eduardo (Luiz Guzman), and his daughter's acting teacher, Elaine (Lesley Ann Warren), Wilson goes on a violent killing spree to seek revenge for his daughter's death on the sleazy guy she was seeing, Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda).

I picked this one up because it was described as a crime noir directed by Steven Soderbergh, who I'm discovering did a whole bunch of fantastic movies I thoroughly enjoyed. (Recently he did the fantastic Side Effects, and Haywire and the all right Contagion) This is a really good noir you guys. It gets the Noir Stamp Of Approval™. To get you interested, it's basically Taken, but if Liam Neeson were older, a criminal, and if he had failed to save his daughter. It's awesome! I mean not for her but, y'know, for us, the audience.

Wilson is just as calculating and badass as Liam Neeson's Bryan Mills, but he also knows how to have fun. With his thick British accent he has a bit of fun riffing on people, making himself look like just another senile old guy. And then he comes out of nowhere and murders three or four thugs without breaking a sweat. He gives no fucks and also no mercy! He knows he's a criminal, a delinquent, and he's probably going to die at the end of this. And he accepts it. He doesn't care. Wilson's a great flawed character and much more interesting than most protagonists that go on revenge sprees. What I really like about Wilson is that he's not an overpowered super-agent – he’s just a tough guy who has ceased caring and will not stop until his daughter is avenged. Many times he relies on luck. He gets beat up and accepts it as a stepping stone for finding his daughter's killer.

All the other characters are just as interesting. Peter Fonda plays the main sleazebag, but he's not your typical evil-for-the-sake-of-being-a-dick bad guy. He's just a big shot trying to keep his money. Then there's Elaine, who blames Wilson for pushing his daughter away but at the same time feels a fondness towards him. I'm happy they don't have much of a romantic relationship, but more of a romantic friendship. That's different. Bill Duke doesn't get a lot of screen time as the main DEA agent, but he's funny in how tired he is of all the damned drugs coming into the country.

As a noir, it hits all the sweet spots. It's got that moody, dirty, melancholic feeling. It's a story you know can't end well for anyone. It's filled with complex and interesting characters who aren't quite bad but aren't good either. And it's brimming with experimental style. One of the things I love about it is how Soderbergh plays with a weird kind of editing where one scene will transition to another.  Future conversations will be juxtaposed with past images, dialogue won't be fully synced up, sometimes certain lines will be said and then repeated later when they finally come to that point in the conversation. It gives a sense that Wilson is dreaming or remembering everything that's happening. Like most people, when you're going from one thought to the next, you can't quite remember how it's all put together. It's never stated if he's dreaming or remembering or if this is just his being senile. There's no clunky narration, which makes it all the better. You don't know what he's thinking at the moment, you just have to experience it.

Accompanying the great cinematography is a killer soundtrack and a low, melancholic score. It's very well done, and it's interesting to hear these cheery rock songs and get seemingly happy scenes of characters enjoying themselves in the middle of this violent noir. You think you're watching the wrong movie, but it only serves to show how brutal and bleak the rest can get. I also admire how they use old footage of Terence Stamp to show is younger self. No idea what the footage is from. Did I mention the amazing cinematography and some really gorgeous shots?

I should probably mention the action. If you watch the trailer, you'll probably expect more than you'll get. Not that it's a lie and it's all in the trailer, but there aren't as many as you'd think. There are some great shootouts with people getting holes blasted through them, and great red gobs flying everywhere, and car chases, and Wilson will even pull a couple of Batman-esque moves of bad-ass-ery. The action is sprinkled throughout, and it can seem like forever until you get to the next one if all you care about is the action. It's not over the top; it's just barely enough. The action is secondary to the drama, and I'm fine with that.

I am in love with the ending. It’s one of those endings that hits you straight in the gut. It didn't go how I thought it would, but it makes perfect narrative sense and drives home a great message. It is incredibly hard to pull off a great ending in noir without getting overly complex or dumb, but they somehow managed it. Major props for sticking the landing!

The Limey is a beautifully shot and engaging noir. It tries a lot of new things and does what noir does best. The story is intriguing with a couple of twists and turns and a fitting ending, and its main character is a perfectly flawed rogue. If you love noir, this is one you should seek out.

THE GOOD: Great characters, great acting, great cinematography and shots, great music, some good action, experimental, great noir.

THE BAD: Not as much action as you may be lead to believe, some non-noir sections can be long.

THE VERDICT: $$$$$ See it! Buy it! Add it to your noir collection! This is a fantastic noir that will become a new classic.

MOVIES LIKE IT: Taken, Michael Brown, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Brick, Sin City

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: Wilson is at a party hosted by Valentine. He sees Valentine across the way. He starts to walk towards him, and as he gets closer, he imagines all the scenarios in which he pulls out his gun and shoots Valentine. He shoots him in the stomach, shoots him in the head, Valentine puts up a hand in defiance and Wilson shoots him in the arm, etc. It's hard to say if he's calculating all the possibilities in his head or if he's just killing him a thousand times because he needs to, but it perfectly replicates the idea we get when we see someone we hate and we can't get the thought of doing something violent out of our head.

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