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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, Nicky Katt, and Peter Fonda.[2] The plot concerns an English career criminal (Stamp) who travels to America to investigate the recent suspicious death of his daughter. It was filmed on location in Los Angeles and Big Sur.

The Limey
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteven Soderbergh
Produced by
  • John Hardy
  • Scott Kramer
Written byLem Dobbs
Music byCliff Martinez
CinematographyEdward Lachman
Edited bySarah Flack
Distributed byArtisan Entertainment
Release date
  • October 8, 1999 (1999-10-08) (United States)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million
Box office$3.2 million[1]

Critical reception was positive, but the film was not a financial success upon its original release.



An Englishman named 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 and Elaine and questions them. Finding they pass his initial inquiry, he elicits their help in investigating Jenny's death. One suspect who emerges is Jenny's boyfriend, a record producer named Terry Valentine. Investigating him it's learned that besides his legitimate record company business, Valentine has involvement in drug trafficking. His involvement is managed through his security consultant, Avery. 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 "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 was 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 Valentine's 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, 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. Wilson and Elaine are taken to meet a DEA investigator. The head agent makes it clear the DEA is after the dealer who used Valentine to launder money, and the agents will not interfere with Wilson's personal mission. He lets Wilson see their file on Valentine, including a photograph and address of a second home in Big Sur. Meanwhile, Stacy and his partner, angry at their beating by the DEA agents, plot to double cross Avery.

Avery moves Valentine to the house in Big Sur, not knowing Wilson has the address. That night Wilson enters the grounds. 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, including Avery. Valentine flees to the beach, with Wilson in pursuit. Falling and breaking his ankle, Valentine cannot escape, and begs for his life. He says Jenny had found out about his drug ties and threatened to call the police. During his attempt to stop her, there is a struggle and Valentine pushes Jenny against a wall where she receives a fatal head injury. To deflect attention from Valentine, Avery staged the car accident.

Wilson knows Jenny would never have turned Valentine in. He turns away, allowing Valentine 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 responseEdit

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]

Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times gave The Limey 3 stars out of a possible 4. Despite the unusual editing, Ebert described the plot as "basic Ross Macdonald", a reference to the mystery writer whose 1950s and '60s best-sellers set in southern California typically featured doom visited on the young adult children of wealthy parents with dark secrets. Stamp and Fonda, both aging icons of the 1960s, represent different sides of the counterculture: "It is a nice irony that both Valentine and Wilson (the Stamp character) made their money from rock music: Valentine by selling the tickets, Wilson by stealing the receipts of a Pink Floyd concert."[14]



  • 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 on IMDb .
  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.
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 8, 1999). "The Limey (1999)". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved March 8, 2017.

External linksEdit