Saturday, September 10, 2011

Review: Steven Soderbergh Tries Noir in "The Limey"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 14 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Limey (1999)
Running time: 89 minutes (1 hour, 29 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence and language
DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh
WRITER: Lem Dobbs
PRODUCERS: John Hardy and Scott Kramer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ed Lachman
EDITOR: Sarah Flack
COMPOSER: Cliff Martinez

DRAMA/CRIME/MYSTERY

Starring: Terence Stamp, Leslie Ann Warren, Luis Guzm√°, Peter Fonda, Barry Newman, and Nicky Katt

Director Steven Soderbergh’s (sex, lies, and videotape) style probably took a radical turn when he saw Quentin Tarantino’s film Jackie Brown. The juxtaposition to time and scenes that made Jackie Brown so engaging is very evident is Soderbergh’s excellent 1998 film, Out of Sight (which shared the same production company as Brown), but this isn’t a knock on him, like accusing him of merely coping. Artists absorb from their experiences. Soderbergh just happened to find another way to tell a film story that would not only force the audience to pay attention and follow the story, but that would also add a dimension to the time, setting, and characters.

He breaks into this new style with a stride in the neo-noir flick, The Limey. He uses flashbacks and flash forwards that might be flashbacks. He has dialogue that overlaps into the present or that runs over a scene that happened in the past. It is not at all confusing, but it is rather bracing. This is beautiful and delicious eye candy. You could find yourself wanting more of this time slippage, indeed, eagerly awaiting each new time shift in the narrative. I really liked how dialogue that is read in one scene, actually belongs in another, but relates to both. Soderbergh uses this not only to establish the story’s timeline, but to establish character and motivation. This seems to give a better understanding of what each character means to the story, whether his part be large or small. It brings so much depth to the film and makes it all the more interesting.

Soderbergh has previously worked with The Limey screenwriter, Lem Dobbs, in Kafka from 1991. They have something special together although Dobbs had complained at the time that Soderbergh had taken liberties with the Kafka script that Dobbs didn’t like. Together they create something that isn’t just different; it’s also a kind of cinematic storytelling that takes advantage of all of film’s visual possibilities.

The story, about an English father who comes to the United States to confront the man he considers responsible for his daughter’s death, is very good. Things aren’t what they seem because what starts out as a hardboiled tale becomes a study of two men’s past and how that shapes their relationship with the same woman. Terence Stamp (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), as the matter of fact rogue, is endearing in an odd sort of way, and the supporting cast, including Lesley Ann Warren, Luiz Guzman, and Peter Fonda, serve the story and the lead quite well.

This is a little film that passed people by, but fans of Soderbergh or Stamp’s work shouldn’t miss it. The Limey is a quality film on a landscape that is covered with too many movies that leave you with an empty feeling.

7 of 10
B+

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