Sunday 18 January 2009

The Limey - Tell him I'm ******* coming!

The Limey, released in 1999 and directed by Out of Sight helmer Steven Soderbergh is an overlooked classic. Part art house flick, crime, film noir thriller and revenge tale, it stars Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda and Luiz Guzman.

Stamp plays Wilson, a violent ex-con, who flies to L.A. to discover how his beloved daughter Jenny was murdered. A fish out of water in LA, Wilson enlists the help of Eduardo, an ex con played by Soderbergh regular Luiz Guzman. Soon Wilson and Eduardo's investigations lead them to Terry Valentine, a renowned West Coast record producer in the mould of David Geffen or Terry Melcher, played by Peter Fonda. Looking after Valentine's business matters and his dirty work is the rather sinister Jim Avery, played by Barry Newman, who became a cult legend for his role in the classic 70's petrol head chase movie Vanishing Point.

When Wilson interferes with Valentine's dodgy downtown dealings, and infiltrates Valentine's luxury mountain apartment resulting in some fatal reductions in his henchmen, Avery sets a pair of hit men take Wilson out while Valentine seeks refuge in his holiday home in Big Sur - leading to a big showdown by the sea.

At a whisker under 90 minutes, The Limey doesn't outstay its welcome. It uses some highly effective flashbacks and flash forwards as if you are in Wilson's mind as he recalls what happened during his transatlantic trip. Particularly effective is the intercutting of flashback footage of a young and beautiful Terence Stamp in the 1967 drama Poor Cow. The casting of two 1960's ace faces like Stamp and Fonda is inspired. Former Warhol star Joe Dallesandro makes an appearance as one of the hit men on Wilson's trail. Apparently the role was orginally written with Michael Caine in mind, though perhaps he wasn't available or someone realised the plot was a bit too close to Get Carter.

At first glance Stamp seems to overplay the Cocker-nee Geezer stereotype but it merely highlights how out of place he is in the LA environment. On several occasions characters comment that they can't understand a word he says. There's also some snappy interplay between Barry Newman and Peter Fonda especially during a scene where the two of them are watching TV together. The Limey has scenes of violence, and there is a particularly wince inducing broken ankle scene towards the end of the movie, but generally nothing is blatant. In fact many scenes are either obscured or off screen. However, there is no doubt that Wilson is a very violent man and not one to be tangled with. In one memorable scene after being roughed up by some of Avery's heavies, Wilson goes back to dispatch them all offscreen, finally emerging blood splattered but unbeaten to bellow to the one surviving henchman and to the audience, "Tell Him I'm F***ing Coming!"

The haunting, moving and sometimes disorientating soundtrack to The Limey is credited to Red Hot Chili Pepper Cliff Martinez. The soundtrack also contains some classic music by The Who, The Hollies and The Byrds, not to mention a quintet of muscular mixes during the party scene at Valentine's mountain apartment by 90's mixmeister Danny Sabre.

The Who's The Seeker is the perfect introduction to Wilson - it's blunt and aggressive, but with a questing soul. The Hollies' King Midas in Reverse all tricked out with faux West Coast harmonies, perfectly sums up the Terry Valentine character and the scene which introduces him and accompanies the song is beautifully photographed showing him watching his barely legal squeeze swimming in a stunningly situated infinity pool.

As a musical aside, both Terence Stamp and Joe Dallesandro have had songs written about them. Stamp, in the Kinks' Waterloo Sunset ("Terry meets Julie, Waterloo station, every Friday night.). Dallesandro in Lou Reed's Walk on The Wild Side ("Little Joe, never once gave it away. Everybody had to pay and pay"). Discounting the Ballad of The Easy Rider, Peter Fonda has not featured in a song but he was the inspiration for She Said, She Said from The Beatles' Revolver.

The Limey has worn remarkably well as has its leading man - there's not many septuagenarians, who can get away with a pair of skinny black Levis and a Harrington and still look cool. Although it hasn't received the plaudits that Soderbergh's more recent triumphs have garnered, The Limey is a peach of a movie with a zesty soundtrack.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on this unheralded gem. It's a terrific film and Martinez's score is a major part of its success. Thanks for sharing!