Magazine article The Spectator

Salute to the Sixties

Magazine article The Spectator

Salute to the Sixties

Article excerpt


The Limey

(18, selected cinemas)

Salute to the Sixties

Mark Steyn

Terence Stamp is The Limey; Peter Fonda is, well, the slimey - a scaly music biz exec Stamp flies to California to do battle with. It's a kind of Mod vs Rocker Seniors' Tour - or, to quote a prescient malapropism one of the elderly teachers delivered years ago in Please, Sir!, this is the aging of the dawn of Aquarius. Sixties people are always Sixties people, and The Limey's director, Steven Soderbergh, is clever enough to tap into all the baggage that Stamp and Fonda bring with them. So, for his title character's back-story, he simply lifts chunks of Poor Cow, Ken Loach's 1967 debut, in which beautiful young Terence larks around with bottled beehived Carol White. For Stamp's character, the Sixties is Swingin' London monochrome; for Fonda's, it's the psychedelic colours of gatefold album sleeves. But for both men it was their moment - 'The Sixties,' Fonda explains to his nymphette girlfriend at one point, 'was really just 1966 and the first half of 1967'- and both men seem, like Austin Powers and Dr Evil, to have stepped out of time for the last act in -some ancient saga.

In fact, Stamp and Fonda have never appeared on screen together, and, as the film opens, their characters are not even aware of each other. Stamp plays a man called Wilson (as he did in Poor Cow), a Cockney hard-case who's been detained at Her Majesty's pleasure for most of his adult life. He's come to Los Angeles because his daughter's car careered off Mulholland, dived into the canyon, burst into flames, and Wilson is disinclined to accept a verdict of accidental death. So he's in La-La Land to kick ass - or, more accurately, arse. After a bit of poking around, he discovers the trail leads high up into the Hollywood Hills to a spectacular pad cantilevered out over the valley, the home of record exec Terry Valentine, played by Fonda. As it turns out, they have something in common: both made their money in rock'n'roll - Terry Valentine 'took the whole southern California zeitgeist and ran with it'; Wilson nicked the receipts from a Pink Floyd gig at Wembley.

The script by Lem Dobbs is as lean and taut and sharp as Stamp himself, following the familiar stranger-in-town-looking-forrevenge trajectory. The twist is that the town's LA and the stranger's a Brit yob. When first we see him, he's unpacking his suitcase - British passport (stiff and blue, needless to say) and Old Spice to the fore. He's a tough old bird who, unlike most Britons in Hollywood, seems to have no desire to assimilate: "Ullo, squire. I know this is your manor but don't get your knickers in a twist,' he tells the baffled locals. For their part, the Angelenos consistently underestimate him: 'Stupid English fuck,' says one, moments before Wilson blows them all away.

That's really what the film's about: two approaches to aging. On the one hand, there's the Fonda/California model: tanned, wealthy, walk-in closets, heated pool, fabulous babes, anything unpleasant contracted out to flunkeys. On the other, there's the Stamp/Brit model: white face, white hair, fiddling the dole, down the boozer, toughened by years of pickled eggs and pints of bitter. Stamp hits the ground with the bounce of an indestructible savaloy: those sun-fried California pussies don't know what's hit 'em. …

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