There are revenge thrillers out there that have reinvented the genre’s redundant premise to near opposite results such as Tarantino’s blood-infested Kill Bill, or Park Chan-wook’s cynically unapologetic Oldboy, but never have I seen a revenge flick quite as unordinary as Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey, for better or worse—but mostly for better.
How do you overcompensate for such a worn-out premise (revenge + death) that the industry seems to have gotten tired of reliving? Well, A) introduce the new question: do you even know if this person you want to take revenge on is guilty or not? And, B) introduce the secondary questions: do you even have that right to vengeance? Is your life really that adjacent to this person you desire to avenge? Or is this your way of mentally making up for things that never brought you close to this person in the first place?
I sort of wish that these themes were explored more profoundly, in spite of it all—it’s hard to flesh-out many of these taxing questions in only 89 minutes—but the fact that they are present is still enough to satisfy. The Limey’s plot and side characters are a bit ridiculously written on occasion, as well, yet it does suit the mood of the film more often than not.
Easily, my favorite aspect of Soderbergh’s 1999 effort lies within the edges of its ambitious editing. Whether it be over-laying present audio to past/future clips or doubling up on the transitional effects, it’s definitely an asset that should encourage cinephiles to check the film out. I really appreciated the hardcore comedy in this too; comedy that mingles awkward and offensive moments into tonally divergent predicaments. There’s even a sitcom-esc montage used to introduce the non-intimidating main villain. The Limey never feels afraid to get quirky, and it’s all for the better. And to top it off, there’s a nostalgic Cliff Martinez noir-thriller score in this, escorting a majority of the film’s technicalities into experimental excellence.
Oh, and Terence Stamp’s character is WHACK.
“The Limey” is now available to stream on Tubi, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, IMDb TV, and The Criterion Channel.