Wilson has just been released from prison, where he served nine years. Even behind bars, he learned about the death of his only daughter. Convinced that her death was not the result of an accident, he travels to Los Angeles. With the help of Eduardo, the only person who knew something about the last days of Jenny’s life, Wilson begins to search for those responsible for her death.
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When it comes to Steven Soderbergh, you can forget about the stereotyped fit into ordinary film frames, about standard film forms. The director is an experiment, whose creations are far from always clear and pleasant, but they are unusual in their essence. His neo-noir thriller ‘The Englishman’, filmed in 1999, is no exception to the rule, in fact being not even a film, but an hour and a half performance by its creator. And even with such a classic-clinical case of narcissism from directing, the film of the former clip-maker does not look like a clip, but looks like a kind of lightweight structure made of multi-colored bricks. How defiantly and boyishly Steven boasts in front of the viewer that he can make something monstrous from a simple story of a ‘war of one man’, superimposing several layers of distracting camouflage passages on common 7-8 key events. Foolishness? Yes. Does it look far-fetched? Not. From this manner of presentation, you very quickly begin to enjoy, joining in decisively solving the local mysteries of the faceless Sphinx. And one should not think that these riddles, if the film is being shot by the intellectual Soderbergh, are something opportunistic. No, by the end of the film they become understandable, preventing unnecessary attempts to take a spade and dig with tears in their eyes, looking for deeper meaning. Everything is on the surface, you just need to look closely.
An Englishman, whose presence is unequivocally hinted at by the title of the tape, is the repeat offender Wilson, who is doing a harsh (in Britain they don’t know how to do it differently, the climate and women are like that) justice over the murderers of his daughter. Wilson, who is like Sting, because he is without a name and is British, with an impenetrable face, sends arrogant scoundrels to the next world, moving as an unstoppable Titanic to an inevitable ending. Revenge and fear are the ultimatum leitmotif of every character, no matter what motives he justifies his actions. Terence Stump’s marble-carved face is the best fit for the role of a man with a burnt past, future and present. Luxurious in its silent brutality, it vulcanizes every frame with itself, heating the air to an unbearable temperature. Their confrontation with the vicious to obscene caricature character of Peter Fonda looks like a perfect game of cat and mouse, rapidly involving others. Cardboard figurines fall under shots heard somewhere off-screen, fall down the cliff – all this happens with some kind of unobtrusive stupidity and hopeless cruelty. Stamp’s character, despite his seemingly stereotyped, has such a varied range of internal emotions that at different times he makes a completely different impression from each other.
Soderbergh’s film is very flexible in its cinematic reality, using a whole kaleidoscope of visual media on the screen. These rapid switching between flashbacks and flashwords, and without any obvious border between them, makes you intuitively wonder what you just saw: the future or the past; observation of the same possible situation from different angles, with changes in causal relationships and the consequences thereof; alternation of the same editing phrases in different situations to create new options for the development of the plot; a multitude of montage refrains, repeated over and over again. The director frankly does not care about the sequential editing, tearing the narrative into uneven pieces that will take their original place only with the final ringing chord. A year after The Englishman, almost everything is the same, but with some improvements Christopher Nolan did in his Remember, which quickly gained cult status, but Soderbergh’s picture did not find such wide recognition among the viewer, limiting himself only to the enormous love of critics and a place in the lists ‘Most Underrated Films’. In this film, as in any of his friends, Soderbergh showed how confidently and firmly one can handle a vast director’s toolkit, even if then one has to face the obligatory accusations of overdimensional pseudo-intelligence and pompous arrogance. This is just the case when the ‘how’ with the steel hand of a seasoned armwrestler bends the standard ‘what’ and ‘what’ to the table surface, issuing a ticket for an hour and a half walk through the world of cinema. The film should not be overestimated, shaking bedbugs out of the tall wig of a homebrew critic, it should not be underestimated with the epithets ‘ah, cool action movie, I liked it’, but it is worth a thoughtful attentive viewing and awareness of the breadth and flexibility of the final result. A delight for the eyes. Food for brain.
Codec: HEVC (54.0 Mb/s)
Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 16-bit)
English: Dolby Digital 5.1
French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 16-bit)
English: DTS 2.0