Limey [1999]

Steven Soderbergh's follow-up to his sexy thriller Out of Sight is an equally stylish but far more austere crime drama, a work of memory that mixes flashbacks, flashforwards, and ruminations on the present into an invigorating cinematic quilt. Terence Stamp is Wilson, an aging cockney criminal fresh out of prison who flies to Los Angeles to search for his daughter's killer. She died in a car wreck, but he suspects that her lover, a music industry mogul named Valentine (Peter Fonda), knows more than he's telling. Wilson is a fish out of water indeed, a cool, cruel London thug on the airy, sun-bright street of L.A., a silver-haired criminal taking on street punks and hit men with the relentless drive of a man possessed. It's like Get Carter channeled through Point Blank, a hard-edged revenge thriller steeped in sorrow and regret, trading the warmth of Out of Sight's romantic heat for a more contemplative remove. Fonda beautifully plays off his cinematic history of 1960s hippies and rebels as a nervous, cowardly millionaire sellout in white cotton peasant shirts and a deep California tan. Luiz Guzman and Lesley Ann Warren costar as Wilson's "adopted" guides through modern L.A., and Barry Newman is excellent as Valentine's tough, terse head of security, another aging pro blindsided by Wilson's relentless single-mindedness. Soderbergh quotes from Ken Loach's 1967 film Poor Cow (sadly not available on video in the U.S.) for Wilson's flashbacks as a fresh-faced teenage thug. --Sean Axmaker

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