A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 338 – The Limey

The Limey – February 1st, 2011

I vaguely recall when this movie came out, seeing ads for it on television and thinking it looked good. After all, it had Terence Stamp in it, and I love Terence Stamp. As an aside, I still hold a grudge against the Star Wars prequels for having Terence Stamp and wasting him. When you have an actor like Stamp you need to give him something awesome to work with, and it definitely looked like this movie did. And then? I don’t know. I never got around to it. But that’s the whole point of a project like this. To get around to all the movies I’ve meant to see for years and never think of putting in when I have time and only think about when I’m too busy or at work or something. And thank goodness, because this was fantastic.

It is a movie about a man on a mission. It’s a movie about family and the choices people make and where those choices lead them. But mostly it is about a man on a mission, and as such it as a very tight focus. We don’t get to know many of the characters terribly well, but we’re given glimpses of them in relation to our lead character, Wilson. Now, when I say Wilson is a bad ass, I don’t think it truly communicates just what he is. He is a Bad Ass. He’s cool and calm and utterly capable of fucking your shit up without breaking a sweat. And the whole time he’ll be peppering his speech with Cockney Rhyming Slang and you’ll be having your ass kicked and you won’t even know why. All you will know is that you never want this man after you ever again. He is that sort of lead man.

Wilson is in LA investigating the death of his daughter, Jenny. He’s an ex-con, just out of a nine year stint in prison in England, and he’s convinced that the accident she supposedly died in was no accident. When he arrives he looks up the man who mailed him information about her death and that meeting leads him on the path to his daughter’s death. She was dating a somewhat slimy music promoter named Terry Valentine. There was a drug deal involved, money laundering, thugs, and Valentine’s personal chief of security, an even slimier guy named Avery. And Wilson slips right in, causing trouble and finding leads. He even tangles with the DEA and comes out on top. He tracks down Valentine and deals with every obstacle in his way, somehow also making friends with Ed (who wrote to him) and Elaine, his daughter’s acting coach.

For a movie about drug deals and hit men and the like, it’s a remarkably quiet piece. It’s a thriller, really, semi-noir, but still. It’s quiet. Peaceful, almost, which I believe comes from the concept that the vast majority of it is supposed to be memory. It’s an interesting aesthetic. Actually, most of the movie is a collection of interesting aesthetics. From the sometimes off-center shot composition to the occasional flashlight-like spotlighting to the disconnected visuals and dialogue. It’s all carefully crafted to seem a little off-kilter and a little unreal.

The scene where Wilson and Elaine are talking, getting to know each other through their shared connection of Jenny, has this gentle piano music playing in the background and it reminds me of nothing so much as a scene in Diva. There’s something oddly serene about it. Incongruous with the action and tension and danger of the rest of the movie. It could feel out of place, but it doesn’t. It’s a spot of contrasting color. It crops up every once in a while throughout the movie, but that scene in particular struck me. It’s the fond memory – the positive bit – in the middle of something unpleasant but necessary. It sets the whole movie apart for me as a sort of anti-thriller. There are thriller aspects to it, certainly, but it was rare that I actually felt tense or thrilled. It was more of a glide.

Everything in this movie is stylized and, as I said, tightly focused. It is the story of a man. We even get to see some early footage of Terence Stamp from the 1967 movie Poor Cow, set up to be memories Wilson has of his youth (and my goodness, take a look at him – hot). But it’s also the story of his mission and the people it brings him in contact with. Ed, played by Luis Guzman, is a great foil for him and Elaine, played by Lesley Ann Warren, is an interesting not-quite-love-interest. There’s something there, but it’s never quite realized. After all, that’s not part of Wilson’s mission. And then there’s Peter Fonda as Valentine, a nemesis who doesn’t quite work out that way. It’s a well crafted movie and a well scripted movie and a well acted movie and Terence Stamp is most certainly not wasted here.

February 1, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

The Limey

February 1, 2011

The Limey

The last time I watched this movie I watched it for Terence Stamp. I’d seen him in Priscilla and had heard from my co-workers at TLA that he was a complete badass in this movie and that I simply had to see it. And of course they were right. But I didn’t pay much attention to the credits other than that – I was just enjoying this slick, stylish thriller. This time around I noticed a familiar name in the opening credits that had somehow passed me by on the first viewing so I was watching it tonight for Steven Soderbergh.

This movie is the epitome of cool. For one thing it has a hard-boiled thriller feel to it. A sort of Elmore Leonard/Raymond Chandler sensibility. Terence Stamp plays the titular limey – a con, thief and hustler named Wilson who gets out of prison only to discover that his daughter has died in a car accident in LA. He travels there to investigate because he does not believe that it was an accident.

Wilson’s particular brand of investigation is straight forward and brutal. He is a nasty customer not to be messed about with, and there is nobody in the movie who stands a chance once he’s on the war path. His daughter had been dating a wealthy rock producer named Terry Valentine (played with a kind of sleazy smarm by Peter Fonda) and she had had a confrontation with some low-life dock workers about some kind of nefarious deal. Wilson confronts these seedy underworld folks and they soon discover what everybody else in the movie will learn – you do NOT fuck with Wilson. Stamp plays him with a steely-eyed determination and complete conviction at all times. There is never a moment in the film when you do not feel that he is completely in charge.

He then proceeds to stomp all over the entire LA criminal underworld, or so it seems. He crashes a party at Valentine’s place. He puts the fear of god into Valentine’s nefarious bodyguard. He deals with a hit man jired to eliminate him and a corrupt DEA officer. Ultimately he tracks Valentine down to the house where he is hiding out to confront him. It’s a bit like the final scene in Cape Fear – if Max Cady had been the hero of the movie instead of the villain.

In addition to the fantastic cast (Luis Guzman and Lesley Ann Warren play Wilson’s allies and Barry Newman is fantastic as Valentine’s bodyguard) what makes this movie great is the stylish direction. It’s a sort of contemplative thriller. The whole thing is assembled very cleverly from clearly disparate takes with a sort of spontaneous vibe. Dialog is frequently looped over other scenes – there’s a conversation that Wilson holds with his daughter’s friend and dialog coach Elaine which is cut together from two completely different locations for example. The movie flashes forward and back so that it has a sort of magical feel to it. There are a couple occasions where alternate takes are stuck together so that characters repeat themselves. The whole thing ends up with a sort of dream-like quality.

This whole movie absolutely oozes style. It is a melding of the thrillers of yester-year with a modern LA and a slick directorial panache that only Soderbergh could bring. Terrance Stamp is the coolest badass anti-hero you could ever want to see. I wish now that we had Out of Sight and Get Shorty as a follow up. So many movies.

February 1, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment