Director Steven Soderbergh followed his comeback "Out of Sight," which this fractured, fragmented revenge film starring Terence Stamp, an icon of 60s Swinging London, as an ex-con bent on revenge. While it's a simple story, Soderbergh and his editor make liberal use of flashback, flashfoward, and, most intriguingly, footage from an earlier Stamp performance in "Poor Cow." Stamp is great, both commanding and cool, and he's surrounded by an excellent supporting cast, all of whom seem baffled by his thick accent and cockney slang: Luis Guzman, Lesley Ann Warren, Nicky Katt, and a very smarmy Peter Fonda, whose character is like if Easy Rider survived the 60s and became a soulless music producer/promoter. Its style harks back to "Point Break" and points the way forward to "Memento," another simple revenge story told in an unorthodox fashion.
Wilson, an angry British career criminal with a violent temper, travels to Los Angeles in order to take revenge on the seedy Hollywood producer he believes is responsible for the death of his estranged daughter. Aided by Roel, one of the girl’s acquaintances (himself a former inmate), Wilson’s murderous plan begins to take shape until some unforeseen complications arise in the form of drug dealers, a trigger-happy private security agent, and a couple of very determined detectives. As hunter and hunted close in on one another bullets begin to fly and the body count rises…but which one will walk away in the end? Although the paper-thin plot holds no great surprises, Terence Stamp’s stand-out performance as the titular anti-hero provides a fascinating character study of a man driven by guilt and an innate rage. With coping skills that consist mainly of violent acts, Wilson is unable to deal with his grief in any other way; even the small voice of reason offered by Roel is not enough to dissuade him from his course. Director Steven Soderbergh presents us with a weary, smoke-filled L.A. filmed in washed out shades of brown and backed by a muted soundtrack of rock riffs. His choppy editing style toys with our sense of time with flashbacks, flash-forwards and repetitious scenes catching us off guard at unexpected moments. The resulting sense of narrative disorientation doesn’t always work in the movie’s favour—-did the projectionist play the reels out of order?—-but there’s no denying the fact it adds a certain kinetic energy to the onscreen drama while providing a few clues as to why Wilson feels partly responsible for his daughter’s untimely end. There is also an unexpected mythical element to the man’s tragic quest as we see him waiting in the shadows while his prey looks down imperiously from a hilltop mansion. A fine piece of cinema which doesn’t rely on blood and guts to tell its story.
What I really like about this movie was the director's use of footage from an old Terrance Stamp movie as silent flash-backs. It was skillfully accomplished and added a depth of emotion to the father's story, which wouldn't have otherwise been there.
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