THE LIMEY gave Terence Stamp one of his best latter-career roles as the protagonist in this stylish revenge drama from 1999, directed by Steven Soderbergh, written by Lem Dobbs. Flashbacks interject footage of Stamp from 1967’s Poor Cow.
“Bide your time. That’s what prison teaches you, if nothing else. Bide your time, and everything becomes clear, and you can act accordingly.”
Stoic ex-con ‘Wilson’ (Stamp, 60) arrives in L.A. from London. Suspecting his daughter’s death in a car wreck wasn’t an accident, he methodically works his way up the chain of responsibility toward the apparent guilty party, wealthy record producer ‘Terry Valentine’ (Peter Fonda).
Stamp’s avenging devil Wilson is ice-cool at revealing bottled-up bitterness and dark-side experience behind suppressed rage. Fonda easily projects insulated vanity as the ironically tagged Valentine. Choice turns come from the supporting players. Lesley Ann Warren is elegant, alluring and natural as the deceased daughter’s acting teacher. Luiz Guzman effectively dials in low register for a change, as the girl’s classmate who aids Wilson. Barry Newman (where had he been?) is easy-sleazy as Valentine’s slick fixer. As a hired goon, Nicky Katt nails another in his gallery of bastards. Stunning Amelia Heinle shines as Valentine’s new, unsuspecting girlfriend.
Fluid direction from Soderbergh makes great use of locations in L.A. and up the coast in Big Sur. Expertly edited by Sarah Flack, running a lean 90 minutes, with additional keen supporting work from Bill Duke, Joe Dallesandro, William Lucking and Melissa George. Good reviews didn’t translate to success at the box office: costing $10,000,000, it made but $3,326,000, 162nd place for 1999.
“You know, you could see the sea out there, if you could see it.”