Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Limey (Steven Soderbergh, 1999) -- C

The Limey predicts the HBO aesthetic resulting from the subsequent decade - that's the only thing that can be said to be prophetic about Steven Soderbergh's anti-cinematic headache, and I'm not certain it's anything to be proud of. The director appropriates John Boorman's 1967 masterpiece Point Blank (utterly cinematic) and turns it into something stilted, pseudo-academic, and without joy. Yet even more contradictory, Soderbergh's compositions mirror what one would expect to find around 10 PM on any one of CBS's interchangeable crime shows, as does his use of The Who's "The Seeker" over the opening credits - ugly and obvious. The incongruous combination, especially when enacted with very little display of consideration on the director's part, are evidence of Soderbergh's hackery - and the utter lack of anything to say or impart with his film cements this ineptitude. So, the film concerns Wilson (not Walker) (Terence Stamp) traveling to LA, "seeking" the men who may have killed his daughter. A silly montage of different images early in the film displays how little talent Soderbergh has, as if using various color stocks, having the character walk in slow motion in front of a wall, and randomly splicing it together reveals, formally, the character's fractured persona. Nor do jump cuts during conversation prove anything more than postmodernist hokum - the same with casting Peter Fonda opposite Stamp as his nemesis, a potentially clever stunt casting were Soderbergh intent on having any fun with it. Same goes for Joe Dallesandro, wasted since Soderbergh refuses to let him have any resonant scenes or moments. Detached, as one has come to expect from the director, does not lend itself well to cinema, specifically in a genre film. The glaring problem really is, though, that Soderbergh doesn't use his chosen aesthetic for any cinematic purpose, rather a fashionable one, "revising" prior texts, yet forgetting to do any of the revision (or, as are my suspicions, without anything to revise). He betrays genre filmmaking with his film school conceits, and consistently churns out some of the most hollow, soulless films in memory. The Limey is certainly no exception.

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