March 30, 2000

The Limey (1999)
Artisan Entertainment

88 mins. ∑ R
16x9 ∑ 1.85:1

Format
DVD

Audio
E

Subtitles
English

Extras
2 Commentary tracks, Isloated music score, Trailer and TV Spots, Production Notes

Starring
Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda, Lesley Ann Warren

Review by
Guido Henkel


Rating



(1999)

Hardly recognized, "The Limey" is a thriller by director Steven Soderbergh that saw only a limited theatrical release. Now, Artisan Entertainment has prepared a DVD for the movie and proves once again that sometimes great films fall through the cracks undeservedly.

A British ex-convict, Wilson (Terence Stamp) is arriving in Los Angeles to avenge the death of his daughter. He is convinced that her car "accident" was hardly accidental at all and sets his sights on his daughterís boyfriend, the wealthy, guarded music promoter Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda). Against all odds and precautions, Wilson manages to get within striking distance of Valentine unnoticed, and begins to play a game with the unsuspecting hippie-of-old. One by one he takes out his men to make sure he will be able to have a final face off man-to-man with the man who killed his only daughter. With notorious precision he closes in on his target.

While "The Limey" offers little surprises in terms of the story, it is the filmís narrative that is very exciting. The plot has still enough twist to keep viewers engaged, but it is ultimately director Soderberghís unconventional use of the camera, angles, lighting and editing that gives "The Limey" its signature. Scenes where Wilson is losing himself in thoughts while he is actually talking, scenes where the viewer becomes Wilsonís eyes as he sees himself, and many other interesting devices make sure the viewer is never losing interest in the character and the development of the story. It gives the film somewhat of an artsy flair but never to the point that it becomes artificial or distracting. The camera simply captures more of Wilsonís character than the eye can see.

The title "Limey" actually comes from the fact that Wilson is British, and during the war, British soldiers were given limes to to eat to get their daily dosage of vitamins. Since then the terms simply stuck within certain circles.
The film is beautifully acted and especially Terence Stampís stoic portrayal is remarkable. Perfectly playing a British working-class roughneck who isnít afraid of anything, Stampís freezing stare and his precise delivery is making "The Limey" a fascinating film.

Artisan Entertainment has been releasing "The Limey" in 16x9 enhanced widescreen presentation on this DVD that restores the filmís original theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is spotless without any scratches or other blemishes. Without any excess grain, the transfer is highly detailed and the DVD nicely preserves and restores this definition during playback. The discís black level is also fabulously balanced, giving the image a lot of dimensionality with its deep solid shadows that donít lose definition and the well-balanced highlights. Colors are extremely well delineated, preserving even the most subtle hues of the movie. Skintones are rendered absolutely natural and the overall color balance is flawless and impressively natural. No signs of edge-enhancement are visible in the transfer, giving the presentation on this DVD a very film-like look with clearly defined, naturally looking edges that never appear sharpened. Running at a very high bitrate and given the flawless source material, the DVDís image is without any compression artifacts. No signs of pixelation, chroma noise or dot crawl can be found anywhere on this disc.

"The Limey" features a number of audio tracks. It is presented in a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital mix as well as a Dolby Surround mix. There are notable differences between these mixes and they are quite intentional. The 5.1 mix is very dynamic with a very good frequency response and a deep bass extension. Although the film does hardly feature excessive low-end effects, the bass extension is noticeably adding punch to the images. Surround usage is aggressive and very effective, giving the film a very lively appearance and a wide sound field. However the dialogue mix is often so that you will have to listen to the movie at a rather high volume in order to understand everything.
The Dolby Surround track has a slightly different feel and comes across as more dynamically compressed. Still lively and energetic, the dialogue mix in particular appears to have been leveled out more so that it is more understandable, even in a low volume playback situation. It is not as punchy and aggressive as the 5.1 mix, but especially is you canít afford to pump up the volume, it gives you an evened-out listening experience.

Apart from those audio tracks the disc also contains two separate commentary tracks. The first one is by director Steven Soderbergh and writer Lem Dobbs. Just as on the DVD of "Out Of Sight," Soderbergh delivers a great commentary with plenty of insightful information. Covering many aspects of the production as wll as his general intentions and thoughts for many scenes, fans of the film will find this commentary a valuable treasure chest that gives viewers even more insight into the film and its characters. Soderberghís and Dobbsí obvious pleasure to elaborate on many events surrounding the production helps immensely to make this a good commentary track.

The second commentary track features a number of cast and crew members. It is not a continuous commentary track but includes tidbits from each one as the film goes along. The subtitle track on the disc shows you who you are currently listening to which makes identifying the voices much easier. However, I initially turned on the subtitle track because I expected actual subtitles for the film and was slightly flabbergasted at the lines saying "Terence Stamp" ,"Lem Dobbs" etc. at the bottom of my screen without being able to put them in any context - until I listened to the second audio commentary, that was. A real subtitle track is missing from the release.

The last audio track on the disc features the movieís isolated soundtrack in an engrossing 5.1 mix. Beautiful, intensive and a bit retro, the track is working perfectly with the images and once again, this release gives viewers the chance to study how the images and the music go hand in hand.

A number of other supplements can be found on the disc, such as trailers, cast and crew biographies and production notes. Some of the most informative extras can be found in the "Technical Information" section. It is an unexpected feature that gives you a lot of insight into the development process of the DVD. A very cool comparison that allows you to view a particular film segment in a 16x9 presentation and a standard letterbox version alternatively gives viewers the chance to judge for themselves how much of a difference 16x9 enhancements make on their personal set-ups. Unfortunately the feature doesnít allow to instantly switch from one to the other due to technical limitations inherent in the DVD format. Nonetheless, I am sure many viewers will for the first time be able to make a real comparison of the two presentation formats and hopefully make up their own minds when they see - or donít see - the differences. The technical section covers many more aspects and you should make sure not to miss out on this unsuspecting addition to this release.

"The Limey" has a bit of an Arthaus flair, but nonetheless makes a great thriller. The portrayal of the emotional abyss Wilson is facing is perfectly portrayed through Terence Stampís great performance and more importantly thanks to Soderberghís visionary use of the camera and editing techniques. Artisan has given this rather unknown movie a stunning treatment on this DVD. With extras and commentaries galore, this DVD is the perfect release for any film student or anyone who is interested in the process of making movies with a twist. While "Out Of Sight" was Soderbergh at his most streamlined, "The Limey" is Soderbergh at his most experimental, and both films work like charms.

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