Sexy Beast review

:. Director: Jonathan Glazer
:. Starring: Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley
:. Running Time: 1:30
:. Year: 2001
:. Country: UK

Sexy Beast is everything most movies are not. A nice big package that includes cruelty, hilarity, a love story, and thrills.

Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) is lounging poolside at his villa in Spain's hot Costa del Sol like a big fleshy ham in revealing Speedos. He tells us that he's boiling, roasting in the sun, and that London's a shit hole, a toilet. Ahh, the imagery. Then a boulder comes crashing down the hill, narrowly misses him and lands in his pool. This is only a glimpse of what's coming to disrupt his lazy, bacchanal lifestyle. A retired thief, his given up crime to live out his days with the love of his life, Deedee (Amanda Redman, a former porn star, and their mutual friends, Aitch (Cavan Kendall) and Jackie (Julianne White). Apart from having drinks by the pool and dining out, life is continual sunny bliss. Gal Dove, as his name suggests, is living peacefully, except for surreal dreams involving an underground satanic rabbit man that come in as meditative interludes. When they find out Don Logan is coming to see him about an elaborate underwater heist in London, the four of them freeze like rabbits. The mention of his name is scarier than the boulder that almost killed him.

Along comes a psychotic Ghandi to tear up their serene existence. Actually Ben Kingsley plays Don Logan, a character so menacing he's sure to send shivers down your spine and make you forget what a nice guy he once played. He wants Gal for a job and Gal is obviously enjoying retirement with his wife and friends by the pool. Here is where "Sexy Beast" differs from the tired "I'm done with this business for good. For good I tell you. How much? Oh, O.K., just one last time and I'm definitely through" genre. From the moment he marches through the airport in Spain, Logan is a taut cobra waiting to uncoil and spray verbal bullets at his next victim. Many scenes involve Logan terrorizing and berating Gal and his friends. Prisoners in their own home, they awake to such moments as Logan kicking and screaming that he won't let them be happy.

After much bullying, Gal does go to London while Logan disappears for a time. His reasoning is not the big material payoff, rather he does it for love of his wife and friends and his overriding need to protect them from Don Logan, certainly a twist to the usual reasons. As for the heist itself, it's unusual and involves flooding a bank from the Turkish bath next door, not something that's been seen recently. The underwater scene matches Gal's surreal underground satanic man dreams perfectly.

By setting the most of the film in Spain and not London there's an extra touch of viciousness. Brilliantly shot by Ivan Bird, Spain crackles in the heat and has an ominous tone, like movies shot in the American desert where people are left to die. We see how serious Gal was about leaving the old life far behind.

For a debut feature, Glazer made an excellent choice to focus on acting and dialogue versus big, slick American explosions. Had David Mamet written Trainspotting, it would have sounded something like this. Indeed it's quite interesting that Glazer and Amores Perros director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu come from successful careers in advertising and have created such brilliant works their first time around that don't even hint towards the commercialism you would suspect to be present.

As for the acting, obviously Kingsley takes the cake, but the Costa Del Sol 4 do an excellent job too, for they're given a nice meaty bone to draw from. Winstone's Gal is obviously conflicted and watching his fleshy fears collide against Logan's garrulous torture is a treat. Unlike other recent British gangster films, i.e. Snatch or Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, youth doesn't really have a place in the film and the black humor is tempered with un-romanticized emotion.

Like the opening car crash that never quite leaves you in Amores Perros, Sexy Beast jars you until the end.

  Anji Milanovic

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