Starring Terrence Stamp as a Brit on a mission of revenge, The Limey covers much-tread-upon ground plot-wise, but master of style Steven Soderbergh manages to elevate the film beyond the material with directorial touches that allow the film to succeed. This is a film I found myself appreciating more than I found myself enjoying it – disappointing for me, but no knock on Soderbergh
Although I ultimately found The Limey an unsatisfying watch, so much of what Soderbergh does here is fascinating; his directorial choices turns this into a memorable film. Soderbergh continues to have some of the best musical cues in the business (there’s even a Jean-Jacques Perrey needle drop here!); his editing and cinematography here give the film a dream-like quality; despite only a couple of big-name actors, this is a well-rounded cast. Stamp as an aging thug is maybe an obvious casting choice, but he plays the role so damn well, it almost doesn’t matter. Peter Fonda as the post-hippy antagonist of the film is also incredibly well-drawn simply thanks to the strength of the casting – so much is written on Fonda’s face!
There’s a nice circularity to the plot that Soderbergh mines to the fullest, drawing connections between characters that we might not otherwise have seen, creating an uncertain framing device. The surrealistic mood here is almost shocking coming from Soderbergh, whose best films usually utilize an opposite sort of hyperkinetic realism.
Maybe that’s why I couldn’t quite get into this film; I appreciate what Soderbergh does, but it’s just not what I look for in a Soderbergh film. As a director, Soderbergh is at his best in the weeds, thinking about the details, so this hazy dreamscape of a film felt unfulfilling to me. I can’t blame my expectations on anyone but myself, and Soderbergh is entitled to do what he likes.