The Limey follows Wilson (Terence Stamp), a tough English ex-con who travels to Los Angeles to avenge his daughters death. Upon arrival, Wilson goes to task battling Valentine (Peter Fonda) and an army of L.A.s toughest criminals, hoping to find clues and piece together what happened. After surviving a near-death beating, getting thrown from a building and being chased down a dangerous mountain road, the Englishman decides to dole out some bodily harm of his own.
The Limey is a 1999 American crime film, directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Lem Dobbs. The film features Terence Stamp, Lesley Ann Warren, Luis Guzman, Barry Newman, and Peter Fonda.
It was filmed on location in L.A. and Big Sur.
The Limey follows Wilson (Terence Stamp), a tough English ex-con who travels to Los Angeles to avenge his daughter's death. Upon arrival, Wilson goes to task battling Valentine (Peter Fonda) and an army of L.A.'s toughest criminals, hoping to find clues and piece together what happened. After surviving a near-death beating, getting thrown from a building and being chased down a dangerous mountain road, the Englishman decides to dole out some bodily harm of his own.
Wilson (Stamp), recently released from a British prison, travels to Los Angeles to investigate the death of his daughter Jenny, who is reported to have died in a car accident. While adjusting to the United States, he finds allies in Jennys friends Eduardo (Guzman) and Elaine (Warren) and comes up with a suspect: Jennys boyfriend Terry Valentine (Fonda), a record producer. Valentine has connections with drug trafficking through his security consultant Avery (Newman). After locating the warehouse of the drug importer with whom Avery had done business and retrieving Valentines home address, Wilson is overpowered and beaten by the drug traffickers thugs, who also insult his daughters name. After he is thrown out, Wilson retrieves a back-up pistol, goes back and kills all but one of the employees, shouting at the last to "Tell him Im coming!" The employee relays this threat to Avery who reports it to Valentine.
Wilson reminisces with Elaine and Eduardo about his past relationship with his daughter, whom he only remembers as a child. As he recalls, Jenny always threatened to call the police when she found her father had committed crimes. He states she did not because she truly loved him. His criminal life put strain on his wife and child, but they never left him. He ended up in prison after the thieves he was associated with confessed to his involvement in their crimes.
Wilson and Eduardo infiltrate a party at Valentines house, where Wilson searches for evidence. He finds and steals a picture of Jenny. Attracting suspicion from Avery, Wilson is accosted by a guard, who Wilson then throws over a ledge, killing him. Wilson and Eduardo flee, and are chased by Avery who shoots at them with a shotgun. Wilson rams Averys car into a ditch and he and Eduardo escape, but not before Eduardo makes the mistake of calling out Wilsons name within Averys hearing. Afterward, Avery hires a hit-man named Stacy (Katt), who tracks down Wilson and Elaine. DEA agents prevent the attempted killing, and escort Wilson and Elaine to meet a DEA agent who is investigating Valentine. After the meeting it is clear the agent will not interfere with Wilson. Stacy and his partner then plot a double cross on Avery and Valentine.
Avery moves Valentine and his girlfriend to a safe house in Big Sur, with Wilson following them. That night, Averys guards shoot an intruder, who is revealed to be Stacy. Avery and the guards engage in a shootout with Stacys partner, resulting in several deaths. Valentine flees to the beach with Wilson in pursuit. After he falls and breaks his ankle on the rocks, Valentine admits that Jenny found out about his drug business, picked up the telephone, and threatened to call the police. Attempting to restrain her, he accidentally broke her neck. Avery then staged her death as a car accident. Wilson is haunted, knowing that Jenny would never have turned Valentine in, because (as a twelve-year-old girl) she had used the very same bluff on her father. Wilson decides to return to London, saying goodbye to Elaine and Eduardo.
The narrative structure of the film is presented in disjointed flashbacks by Wilson during the plane trip home.
Steven Soderbergh uses atypical flashback sequences, and includes several scenes (no dialogue) from a much older Terence Stamp movie, Ken Loachs 1967 directorial debut Poor Cow. Soderbergh uses the scenes to create a hazy back story to show Stamps character as a young man, and his relationship with a woman, Jennys mother. Wilson often speaks in a Cockney rhyming slang. The title refers to the American slang Limey, which refers to Britons.
In a scene later in the film, Fondas character is watching TV, and footage from Access Hollywood is shown—a clip of George Clooney discussing his first visit to Italy. Soderbergh made the film Out of Sight with Clooney the previous year.
Film editor Sarah Flack utilizes a variety of unorthodox editing techniques in The Limey. The film frequently features dialogue and background sound from previous or future scenes juxtaposed with a current scene. Dialogue from one conversation, for instance, may find itself dispersed throughout the film, articulated for the first time long after its chronological moment has passed, as a sort of narrative flashback superimposed over later conversation, to complete a characters thought or punctuate a characters emphasis. Background sound may be disjointed in the film and shifted to enhance another scene by suggesting continuation, similarity, or dissimilarity, For example, Wilson is in a hotel room, and turns on the shower, and Wilson is in a plane looking out the window, and the shower can be heard.
The Limey was first presented at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival on May 15. It was also featured at the Toronto Film Festival, the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, and the Hong Kong International Film Festival.
A limited release in the US began on October 8, 1999 and did poorly at the box office. Its first weeks gross was $187,122 (17 screens) and the total receipts for the run were $3,193,102. The film was in wide release for seventeen weeks (115 days), and was shown in 105 theaters.
Critical reception of The Limey was largely positive, with the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reporting 93% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on eighty reviews.
Edward Guthmann, film critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, praised the direction, and films screenplay, and wrote, "The Limey...is a first-rate crime thriller and further proof that Soderbergh is one of our great contemporary film stylists. Taut, imaginative and complex, this is one of the best American films of the year and a wonderful antidote to the numbing sameness of [some] movies." Critic Janet Maslin wrote of Terence Stamps work, "Stamp plays the title role furiously, with single-minded intensity, wild blue eyes and a stentorian roar shown off in the films early moments...Glimpses of young, dreamily beautiful Stamp and his no less imposing latter-day presence are used by Soderbergh with touching efficacy."
The film critic for Variety magazine, Emanuel Levy, lauded the crime drama and liked the direction of the picture, the acting, and the screenplay, yet thought the film "lacks secondary characters and subplots." He wrote, "The Limey, Steven Soderberghs new crime picture, continues the helmers artistic renewal, evident last year in the superbly realized Out of Sight. Pics most interesting element is the positioning of two icons of 1960s cinema, the very British Terence Stamp and the very American Peter Fonda, as longtime enemies in whats basically a routine revenge thriller...[and] one has no problem praising the bravura acting of the entire ensemble and the pics impressive technical aspects. Warren, Guzman and Barry Newman give maturely restrained performances in line with the films dominant texture. A supporting turn by Joe Dallessandro, Andy Warhols and Paul Morrisseys regular, accentuates pics reflexive nature as a commentary on a bygone era of filmmaking."
WonSatellite Awards: Golden Satellite Award; Best Drama Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Terence Stamp; 2000.