The Limey

January 19, 2004


I just finished watching The Limey, (1999) a small, violent little piece about an Englishman and vengeance and loss. It is a sad movie, unexpectedly sad, and I think I will chew on it for a while. Terence Stamp plays Wilson, the Limey, Lois Guzman plays Eduardo Roel who helps the Englishman around LA - both are spectacular, as is Lesley Ann Warren.

Spoilers, although it is a 1999 movie so those who are likely to see it have already seen it.

The movie is oddly constructed, with constant shots of Terence Stamp sitting in an airplane interspersed with the events. Eventually I was able to figure out that this is the ride home, and he is remembering his trip to LA - and as the movie progresses we see new layers and complexities to his memories. As a framing device it works very well once I figured out what was going on, but folks who keep asking "whats happening now?" will be very confused for a very long time.

I am still chewing on the movie, but what I take away from it in the first hour is that it is a meditation on wasted time and wasted opportunities - The Limey spends the movie looking back on what seemed to be good decisions at the time, and only sees their real cost long after the fact. "Some other people should have gone, but I went instead." I don't know what Wilson will do next; I suspect that Wilson does not know what he will do next: but it is clear that events will continue after the movie stops filming. The characters, odd and grotesque as they are, will continue, and some of the actions on the screen have lasting importance.

I say some of the actions because the movie falls into the Hollywood pornography of violence - the body count is just short of Hamlet, but most of the deaths are by supporting characters. Wilson is surrounded by violence and death, is rarely visibly moved by it, but is deeply affected by conversations. At least the movie manages to avoid the easy denouement of the gunfight between protagonist and villain, with the hero engaging in gloriously redemptive violence - without consequences - in the penultimate scene just in time to fade to either a kiss or a ride into the sunset. Soderburgh avoids the worst of cliches and merges a very good psychological plot with a lot of gun violence.

As I said, I liked it and will chew on it for a while. The importance of memory to events, and of confrontation and truth-telling, remind me Last Orders, (2001) my favorite recent little movie and another movie featuring working-class Englishmen although without the guns. Checking dates I see that The Limey came first, although after the book Last Orders - I don't know if there are direct influences or simply a similarity of character and scene.

I was reminded of The Limey from the list of under-appreciated movies I wrote about last week - I will be watching more from the list; it is a wonderful resource.

Posted by Red Ted at January 19, 2004 11:08 AM | TrackBack