The Limey

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The Limey
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Produced by John Hardy
Scott Kramer
Written by Lem Dobbs
Starring Terence Stamp
Lesley Ann Warren
Luis Guzmán
Barry Newman
Peter Fonda
Music by Cliff Martinez
Michael Glenn Williams
Cinematography Edward Lachman
Edited by Sarah Flack
Distributed by Artisan Entertainment
Release date
  • October 8, 1999 (1999-10-08) (United States)
Running time
89 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10 million
Box office $3,204,663

The Limey is a 1999 American crime film, directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Lem Dobbs. The film features Terence Stamp, Lesley Ann Warren, Luis Guzmán, Barry Newman, and Peter Fonda.[2]

It was filmed on location in Los Angeles and Big Sur.


The film is presented in flashbacks by a Briton named Wilson (Stamp).

Wilson travels to Los Angeles to investigate the death of his daughter, Jenny. She reportedly had died in a car accident, but Wilson suspects she was murdered. Recently released from a British prison, he is a hardened man. Arriving in Los Angeles, he meets Jenny's friends Eduardo (Guzmán) and Elaine (Warren) and questions them. Finding they pass his initial inquiry, he elicits their help in investigating Jenny's death. One suspect that emerges is Jenny's boyfriend, a record producer named Terry Valentine (Fonda). Investigating him it is learned that besides his legitimate record company business, Valentine has involvement in drug trafficking. His involvement is managed through his security consultant, Avery (Newman). Wilson locates a warehouse used by the drug trafficker, and questions the men there. Laughing at him, they beat him, insult his daughter and throw him out onto the street. Undeterred, Wilson draws a hidden pistol and returns to the warehouse, shooting dead all but one of the employees. As the survivor flees, Wilson shouts after him "Tell him... I'm coming!"

Back with Elaine and Eduardo, Wilson reminisces about his earlier life with his daughter, whom he remembers only as a child. Worried her father would be sent away to prison, she would threaten to call the police whenever she found evidence of the crimes he had been involved in. He recalls she never followed through on her threats, because she loved him and it became a sad joke between them. However, his life of crime put a strain on his family. He ended up in prison after the men he was involved with sold him out to the police.

Seeking more information from Valentine, Wilson and Eduardo sneak into a party held at Valentine's house. Once there Wilson searches for evidence of Valentines involvement. He finds and steals a picture of Jenny. Attracting suspicion from Avery, Wilson is accosted by a guard whom he swiftly head-butts and throws over a railing to his death. Wilson and Eduardo then flee, but are chased by Avery, who rams their car. Wilson rams Avery's car in return, forcing it over a cliff. He and Eduardo escape, but not before Avery hears Eduardo call out Wilson's name.

Avery hires a hit-man, Stacy (Katt), to track down and kill Wilson and Elaine. Avery is prevented from making the hit by agents of the DEA, who have been monitoring Valentine as part of their investigation of a Mexican drug lord. Wilson and Elaine are taken to meet a DEA investigator. The meeting makes it clear the DEA is after the drug lord who used Valentine to launder money, and the agents will not interfere with Wilson's personal mission. The head agent lets Wilson see their file on Valentine, including his home addresses. Meanwhile, Stacy and his partner, angry at their beating by the DEA agents, plot to double cross Avery and Valentine.

Avery moves Valentine to a safe house in Big Sur, but Wilson knows its address. That night the grounds are penetrated. Avery's guards shoot an intruder, but it turns out the man killed is Stacy. Avery and the guards then engage in a shootout with Stacy's partner, resulting in several deaths. Valentine flees to the beach, but Wilson is still in pursuit. Falling on rocks and breaking his ankle, Valentine cannot escape. Wilson walks up as Valentine begs for his life, admitting his involvement in what happened. He says Jenny had found out about his drug ties. Confronting him about it she picked up the telephone and threatened to call the police. During his desperate attempt to stop her, she fell and accidentally broke her neck. To deflect attention from Valentine over her death, Avery then staged a car accident as the cause.

Haunted by the tale, Wilson knows his own involvement in crime led Jenny to act as she did, repeating the same half-serious bluff they had shared so many times. She would never have turned Valentine in, either. He turns away from Valentine, allowing him to live. Wilson makes his farewells to Elaine and Eduardo, and returns to London.




Steven Soderbergh uses atypical flashback sequences, and includes several scenes (largely without dialogue) from a much older Terence Stamp movie, Ken Loach's 1967 directorial debut Poor Cow. Soderbergh uses the scenes to create a hazy back story to show Stamp's character as a young man, his criminal past, his relationship with Jenny's mother and childish Jenny's disapproving attitudes towards his crooked lifestyle.[3] Wilson often speaks in a Cockney rhyming slang. The title refers to the American slang Limey, which refers to Britons.[4][5]

In a scene later in the film, Fonda's character is watching TV, and footage from Access Hollywood is shown—a clip of George Clooney discussing his first visit to Italy. Soderbergh made the film Out of Sight with Clooney the previous year.[6]


Film editor Sarah Flack utilizes a variety of unorthodox editing techniques in The Limey. The film frequently features dialogue and background sound from previous or future scenes juxtaposed with a current scene. Dialogue from one conversation, for instance, may find itself dispersed throughout the film, articulated for the first time long after its chronological moment has passed, as a sort of narrative flashback superimposed over later conversation, to complete a character's thought or punctuate a character's emphasis. Background sound may be disjointed in the film and shifted to enhance another scene by suggesting continuation, similarity, or dissimilarity, For example, Wilson is in a hotel room, and turns on the shower, and then Wilson is in a plane looking out the window, while the shower can be heard.


The Limey was first presented at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival on May 15.[7] It was also featured at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, and the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

A limited release in the US began on October 8, 1999 and did poorly at the box office. Its first week's gross was $187,122 (17 screens) and the total receipts for the run were $3,193,102.[8] The film was in wide release for seventeen weeks (115 days), and was shown in 105 theaters.[9]


Critical response[edit]

Critical reception of The Limey was largely positive, with the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reporting 93% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on eighty reviews.[10]

Edward Guthmann, film critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, praised the direction, and film's screenplay, and wrote, "The a first-rate crime thriller and further proof that Soderbergh is one of our great contemporary film stylists. Taut, imaginative and complex, this is one of the best American films of the year and a wonderful antidote to the numbing sameness of [some] movies."[11] Critic Janet Maslin wrote of Terence Stamp's work, "Stamp plays the title role furiously, with single-minded intensity, wild blue eyes and a stentorian roar shown off in the film's early moments...Glimpses of young, dreamily beautiful Stamp and his no less imposing latter-day presence are used by Soderbergh with touching efficacy."[12]

The film critic for Variety magazine, Emanuel Levy, lauded the crime drama and liked the direction of the picture, the acting, and the screenplay, yet thought the film "lacks secondary characters and subplots." He wrote, "The Limey, Steven Soderbergh's new crime picture, continues the helmer's artistic renewal, evident last year in the superbly realized Out of Sight. Pic's most interesting element is the positioning of two icons of 1960s cinema, the very British Terence Stamp and the very American Peter Fonda, as longtime enemies in what's basically a routine revenge thriller...[and] one has no problem praising the bravura acting of the entire ensemble and the pic's impressive technical aspects. Warren, Guzman and Barry Newman give maturely restrained performances in line with the film's dominant texture. A supporting turn by Joe Dallessandro, Andy Warhol's and Paul Morrissey's regular, accentuates pic's reflexive nature as a commentary on a bygone era of filmmaking."[13]



  • Satellite Awards: Golden Satellite Award; Best Drama Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Terence Stamp; 2000.


  1. ^ Box Office Mojo web site.
  2. ^ The Limey at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times, film review, October 8, 1999. Accessed: August 6, 2013.
  4. ^ "lim·ey". Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  5. ^ Oxford Dictionaries: Limey Accessed: August 6, 2013.
  6. ^ Out of Sight at the Internet Movie Database.
  7. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Limey". Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  8. ^ Box Office Mojo. Accessed: 6, 2013.
  9. ^ The Numbers box office data. Accessed: August 6, 2013.
  10. ^ The Limey at Rotten Tomatoes. Accessed: August 6, 2013.
  11. ^ Guthmann, Edward. The San Francisco Chronicle, film review, page C-3, October 8, 1999. Accessed: August 6, 2013.
  12. ^ Maslin, Janet. The New York Times, Art Section, "The Limey: Touring Show-Business Royalty and Its Underworld," film review, October 8, 1999. Accessed: August 6, 2013.
  13. ^ Levy, Emanuel. Variety, film review, May 18, 1999. Accessed: August 6, 2013.

External links[edit]