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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 3/24/00

The Limey
1999 (2000) - Artisan

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Limey Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A+/A+/A

Specs and Features

89 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, dual-layered (layer switch 44:54, in chapter 15), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, 2 TV spots, audio commentary by director Steven Soderbergh and writer Lem Dobbs, 60s "docu-commentary" (with Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda, Barry Newman, Lesley Ann Warren and Joe Dellesandro, with additional comments by Soderbergh and Dobbs), cast and crew information, production notes, technical specs by sound editor and re-recording mixer Larry Blake, anamorphic to letterbox comparison, film-themed menu screens with animation and sound, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and DD 2.0), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned

When a man gets out of prison and finds that the only person who ever meant anything to him is dead, you're not going to keep him from finding out whether it was an accidental death (as he is being told) or if it was murder. That's The Limey in a nutshell. An unstoppable, emotional machine, hell bent on bring down a corrupt world in the name of truth, justice and the cinema way.

Terence Stamp stars as Dave Wilson, the above-mentioned machine. He's newly arrived in sunny California via an English prison. He is looking into the accidental death of his daughter, which he believes was no accident. He's probably right, and has his sights set on Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda), a wealthy concert promoter and last man known to be "with" Wilson's daughter. No one can stand in Wilson's way as he looks into what actually happened to his little girl. This has been said to be a follow-up to the 1967 Ken Loach film Poor Cow, because Terence Stamp stars in both films (and using a very witty technique, flashbacks to his young days incorporate footage from Poor Cow). The theatrical press release claims that both characters are named Wilson, but writer Lem Dobbs in the commentary claims that this is not true -- both characters are named Dave and that's where the similarities end. Director Steven Soderbergh, on the other hand, likes the notion that this is a follow-up. Who is right and who is wrong makes for an interesting DVD commentary.

On this disc there are two worthwhile commentaries. The first features Dobbs and Soderbergh "discussing" the film -- how it works, how it fails and assorted other musings. Some of this commentary sounds like these two guys are in the middle of a knock down. Dobbs discusses his theories about how this film "fails" as a story, but admits that if he were simply a moviegoer, this would be a good movie. When Soderbergh comments that that should be enough, Dobbs begins to explain how all of Soderbergh's films come up short because of that pandering. You can tell there's an enormous amount of respect between these two - but Dobbs isn't afraid to tell it how he sees it. It's a very insightful look behind-the-scenes of a writer/director relationship. Most of the talking is done by Dobbs, and he's knowledgeable enough that I didn't mind. The other commentary is essentially by the cast, although Dobbs and Soderbergh make appearances. Stamp discusses character and Fonda focuses on politics. It's also an interesting listen, although there are a few too many gaps. One more point on the Dobbs/Soderbergh commentary - it just begins. You drop down right in the middle of what sounds like problems with the sound recorder. It gives us the same anti-liner approach, as does the film. I really liked this commentary.

Getting back to the film itself, it's a very well done character study. This is mostly because of the unconventional editing style of the film. It's a good standard noir tale, and very well told, but the magic is in the editing and the acting. You never quite know what's really going on until the film finally winds up. It just keeps you guessing and trying to figure out exactly what's going on inside Wilson's head the whole time. Stamp is perfect as the lead, giving us a world of pain to look at through his icy gaze. Sometimes you feel like you're watching the film through his eyes and nothing else matters. The rest of the cast fills out the film like the experienced veterans they are. But Stamp is so magical, I almost can't remember anyone else being in the film.

The film on DVD looks beautiful. I loved the colors and texture when I saw this film in the theater, and I just knew it was going to be a knockout on DVD. Judging by Soderbergh's "hands-on" approach to DVD in the past, this had no where to go but the top of my favorites list. The colors on this anamorphic disc are rich and sharp. The blacks are just about perfect and the only grain that could be seen is the grain that's supposed to be there. This is simply a beautiful transfer. The sound quality isn't too shabby either. It's presented both in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 and both sound choices are equally rich and utilize the sound field perfectly. The Cliff Martinez score for this film is so emotional, it would have to be a good mix in order to have any impact. Also for your listening pleasure, the disc comes with that score isolated by itself. At this point, there's just no reason not to pick up this disc. But there are a few more things to tip the scales even farther.

The special features include a trailer, TV spots, cast and crew bios/filmographies, production notes, a nice little liner note insert and my favorite thing on this disc: technical specs. The technical specs go over everything that was done to put this film onto DVD. Written by Larry Blake (with as much personality as know how), you'll see how much care was taken to put this to DVD. Along for the ride is a comparison of the anamorphic image to the straight widescreen (although you 4:3 monitor people will have to set your player for 16x9 to take advantage). This is just a nice disc, through and through. I can't see a reason for not having it unless you just hate the film.

For film fans and students, you have another educational tool with this DVD. DVD lovers also have a nice disc to show off the luxury of the format's quality. I was expecting a top-notch job, but I didn't expect this great a disc. I'm glad Artisan took the time to showcase their stuff with this film. In my mind, they're just further validating our naming them the DVD Studio to Watch for this year. If they keep this up, they'll have my vote for Best DVD Studio for 2000. Keep up the good work, Artisan.

Todd Doogan
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