Underground Film Journal

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Movie Review: The Limey

By Mike Everleth ⋅ October 8, 1999

In comic books, superheroes in New York City always duck into alleyways to change back and forth into and out of their secret identities. But since I moved to this city, I never see any alleyways anywhere. All I see are streets. The buildings are packed tightly together here. I mean, if I were Peter Parker walking down Broadway in SoHo and I see the Green Goblin flying overhead on his bat-jet, I wouldn’t know where to go for some privacy to change into my Spider-Man costume. As far as I can tell anyway. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places.

“Why do you want to see that?” my new co-worker Len asks me. I had boldly announced to him that I was finally going to get to see a movie this weekend and I was pretty sure I had settled on The Limey. It had been months since I had seen anything. New York is full of distractions. I guess I see more bands than movies these days. Last week I saw Quasi, a side-project featuring Janet Weiss who normally drums for Sleater-Kinney, but for this band it’s just her on drums and her ex-husband Sam Coomes on keyboard and sometimes guitar. Anyway, I think Janet is amazing. Gorgeous and a great drummer. I squeezed myself all the way up to the front of the stage at The Knitting Factory, just a couple feet from Janet and stared at her like an obsessed stalker the whole time. Who knows, if she lived in New York instead of out on the West Coast, maybe I would be her stalker.

I haven’t really enjoyed the last couple Steven Soderbergh movies I’ve seen, but every time one comes out I get really excited. I do think he’s the most underappreciated and overlooked director working today. He’s very experimental, a master of using pictures to tell a story, and has never made the same type of film twice. While all his films haven’t been successful, they’re all at least intriguing. I kind of feel the same way about Gus Van Sant. And by the way, Soderbergh’s only claim to “fame” is his first movie, Sex, Lies and Videotape, just in case people don’t know who I’m talking about.

Out of Sight I just plain didn’t like, mainly because that George Clooney rubs me the wrong way. He’s always got to be Mr. Nice Guy, even when he’s playing a hardened crook. But also, I don’t think I like movies based on Elmore Leonard novels. I had the same problem with Out of Sight as I did with Jackie Brown. Halfway through both films I realized I didn’t care anything about the characters or what they did. They were just boring.

I wrote above that Soderbergh has never made the same type of film twice, but he’s kind of cutting it close with Out of Sight and The Limey. Both movies are about unsavory characters, have a semi-thriller/mystery structure and are elliptical in their methods of telling a story. But while Out of Sight used a lot of interweaving flashbacks to propel the plot forward, The Limey takes several moments in time and chops them together as if they are happening linearly. I’m not sure if that’s going to make sense, but it’s kind of hard to explain unless you see the film (which you should).

While watching the film I couldn’t figure out why Soderbergh had edited it in such a unique fashion. If I were an evil film school professor I’d make my students write a thesis on the metaphor Soderbergh was trying to make between reality and perception. I’m sure there is a metaphor to Soderbergh’s method and if I were more intellectually inclined I’d try to deduce what it is in this review, but my film school analyzing days are long behind me. The theory classes were always interesting, but I never really believed what I was writing in my term papers. My thoughts and my sentences would get all convoluted and I’d be like, “Wait, what am I trying to say?” And then I would always get good grades, so go figure.

Soderbergh’s movies always surprise me when they come out. Nobody talks about him. It’s like one day they magically appear in the theater and if I blink and don’t spot his name, I miss them. I don’t even think they made a big deal about him when Out of Sight came out, you know like “From the director of Sex, Lies and Videotape“. I guess because that came out so long ago and it might seem like he hasn’t done anything since. And what I was really happy to see was that The Limey was written by Lem Dobbs, who wrote Soderbergh’s second film, Kafka, another very strange, abstract motion picture. It was good to see them back together.