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
How you doin' then? All right, are you? Now look, squire, you're the guv'nor here, I can see that. I'm in your manor now. So there's no need to get your knickers in a twist. Whatever this bollocks is that's going down between you and that slag Valentine, it's got nothing to do with me. I couldn't care less. Alright, mate? Let me explain. When I was in prison - second time - uh, no, telling a lie, third stretch, yeah, third, third - there was this screw what really had it in for me, and that geezer was top of my list. Two years after I got sprung, I sees him in Arnold Park. He's sittin' on a bench feedin' bloody pigeons. There was no-one about, I could've gone up behind him and snapped his f***in' neck, *wallop!* But I left it. I could've knobbled him, but I didn't. 'Cause what I thought I wanted wasn't what I wanted. What I thought I was thinkin' about was something else. I didn't give a toss. It didn't matter, see? This berk on the bench wasn't worth my time. It meant sod-all in the end, 'cause you gotta make a choice: when to do something, and when to let it go. When it matters, and when it don't. Bide your time. That's what prison teaches you, if nothing else. Bide your time, and everything becomes clear, and you can act accordingly.
Did you ever dream about a place you never really recall being to before? A place that maybe only exists in your imagination? Some place far away, half remembered when you wake up. When you were there, though, you knew the language. You knew your way around. *That* was the sixties.
No. It wasn't that either. It was just -66 and early -67. That's all there was.