When it comes to things that could be added to make movies better, I have a tough time thinking of something to top the addition of an English gangster. I really don’t know why, but it seems their funny accents and ruthless attitudes give a fresh and bad-ass spin on things. So when a movie is centered on an English mobster, it’s destined to be one of my favorites. Not long ago I discovered an English gangster movie that somehow slipped under my radar, and once I saw it – Sweet Jesus – it blew my mind. That movie is The Limey.
The titular limey is portrayed by Terrance Stamp (Superman I & II, Red Planet), one of the most singularly frightening men on the planet. Throughout his career, Stamp has made other English tough-guys like Malcolm McDowell look like Travolta. Compared to the man who told the world to “Kneel before Zod,” we are all women. Here he plays Wilson, a recently paroled convict who must come to the United States to investigate the death of his daughter. The papers say it’s an accidental death, but of course Wilson doesn’t buy that.
Wilson travels to Los Angeles and meets up with his daughter’s friends played by Luis Guzman and Lesley Ann Warren. The friends caution him to let it go, they buy the accident even if Wilson doesn’t. When the violence starts to unfold, it’s almost with a casual brutality. Wilson kills as naturally as he breathes. There’s not an iota of nerves in the man.
What really makes The Limey great is the fact that as the movie proceeds, everything occurs very naturally in relation to the characters. The story is ultimately a requiem for Wilson’s daughter; the tale of a man who pushed his family away by living a life of crime. Most crime movies feature stoic characters going through the paces of a caper or mystery but are cold at the core. The Limey is an exception; it has an emotional tug not often seen.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s 11,12,13, Out of Sight, Traffic) and written by Lem Dobbs (Dark City, The Score) the movie sports a slightly-too-stylized look that maybe could have been toned down to make the movie grittier. At first, the style kind of trips over itself, but by the time the action picks up the movie is firing on all cylinders. The Limey is one of Soderbergh’s movies that slipped between the cracks of Out of Sight and Erin Brokovitch. That’s too bad, because really this movie is a gem that shouldn’t be missed.