Sexy Beast

Laura Clifford 
Robin Clifford 

Gary 'Gal' Dove (Ray Winstone, "The War Zone") is living a hedonistic life on the southern coast of Spain with his beloved wife Deedee (Amanda Redman). They tan in the blazing sun, swim in their custom pool, and eat and drink with their best friends Aitch (Cavan Kendall) and Jackie (Julianne White). One day, Gal's almost killed by an errant boulder which crashes into their pool, cracking the tiles.  His day will be even more shook up when he learns that the fearsome Don Logan (Ben Kingsley, "Rules of Engagement") is flying in to get Gal back to London for a major heist in "Sexy Beast."

Working from a feature debut script by Louis Mellis and David Scinto, commercial and music video director Jonathan Glazer, together with long-time collaborator, director of photography Ivan Bird, makes a startlingly stylish entry into the British gangster genre.  From the opening shot of the oiled and tanning Ray Winstone highlighted by a background of sheer white, Glazer lets us know we're in the hands of an accomplished image maker.

Glazer's no slouch with character development either.  We immediately can feel that Gal's money comes from a shady background.  We also know that Gal adores his wife Deedee.  Winstone and Redmond share a comfortable intimacy on screen, which Glazer highlights with the fantastical as Deedee emerges from their pool framed in a smoky heart Gal's just blown from his cigar.

The tension becomes palpable when Jackie informs them that Don Logan's called and is arriving the next day.  We're first introduced to Logan by the back of Ben Kingsley's shaved dome, and damn if he doesn't project menace from even that angle.  Kingsley, in a performance best described as psychotic pit bull, won't take no for an answer from Gal, who keeps insisting that he's retired. Logan lets Gal into a secret regarding Jackie, immediately regretting tipping his hand to his real agenda.  The four friends, together with Gal's devoted Spanish pool boy, put up a protective front, but in the end, Gal must return to London.

Glazer's sun bleached whites, blues and yellows abruptly turn to watery grays and greens as Gal's greeted by rain and learns of the plot to rob a vault by drilling underwater through the Turkish bath next door.  Teddy Bass (Ian McShane), the operation's mastermind, is far more sinister than Don Logan and Gal keeps Deedee in his mind like a beacon as he attempts to circumvent the landmines of his former underworld.

"Sexy Beast" falls somewhere between the best of the genre - "The Long Good Friday," for example, and the stylish hijinks of Guy Ritchie's "Snatch." While Kingsley's barking madman is the attention getter, it's Winstone's paunchy loverboy that has staying power.


Gary "Gal" Dove (Ray Winstone) lives in quiet complacency on the sunny
coast of southern Spain. To all appearances, he is a normal middle-aged guy
who opted for early retirement. When friends tell him that he is about to
have a visit from Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), fear strikes the hearts of all
in "Sexy Beast."

One thing that "Sexy Beast" definitely is, is an enigma. It is, as far as I
can tell, a one of a kind, dazzlingly colorful gangster film noir. Music
vid and commercial director Jonathan Glazer does make quite a splash (and
not just at the film's funny, offbeat rolling stone opening) with a
gangster film that is long on talk and brief, even terse, on caper.

Gal has done time for his gangland deeds and is now blissfully retired to a
villa on the Costa del Sol with his mutually adoring wife, Deedee (Amanda
Redman). Aside from a near miss by a huge, mysteriously rolling stone, life
on the sunny Spanish shoreline could not be better. Until he learns that he
is about to have a visit by the sinister Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), a blast
from his gangster past. Just when Gal had himself convinced that he was out
of the crime game for good, Logan arrives to drag him back in, whether he
wants to or not. Gal is convinced that if he tells Don to his face, "I'm
not gonna do it," all will be well. But, it won't and the violent,
unpredictable Logan will not take "no" for an answer.

This scenario, with snippets of the setup for the upcoming London caper
mixed in, takes up the first two-thirds of the film, and precedes the heist
itself with a violent confrontation with Don. Gal arrives in London, sans
Logan, and wholeheartedly does his bit to pull off the grand theft and take
attention away from the missing Don. Crime boss and mastermind of the
break-in into an ultra secure vault, Teddy Best (Ian McShane), smells a rat
in Gal and does not believe his underling's story on the whereabouts of
Logan. After the heist and a pointedly insulting payoff to Gal, the
ultra-sinister Teddy promises that he might pay a visit to Gal in Spain,
just to see how he's doing. Once in, never out.

Ray Winstone does a fine job as the troubled Gal. The retired criminal's
particular talent (though this is not made clear in one of the movie's
ambiguities) earned him a good enough living, but after being busted and
doing time, he lost his taste for crime, seeking the solitude of Spain to
spend his days with Deedee. Ray doesn't have the gonads to stand up to Don
and weakens under his violent colleague's constant badgering. Winstone ably
displays Gal's tumble into insecurity and fear.

Ben Kingsley earns point as a violent, uncontrollable monster, but his
character is one-note sinister and doesn't rise above his symbol of Ray's
past evils. More effective in being a full-fledged bad guy is Ian McShane.
His Teddy Best conveys a violent, unbridled power capable of snuffing out
life in the blink of the eye. In a much smaller role than Kingsley's, he
develops into a three-D person, though one you would not want to cross.
Amanda Redman's Deedee puts depth into Deedee, making her the obviously
strong member of the couple. The rest of the supporting cast is capable,
but are mainly there to flesh things out. James Fox appears, in little more
than a cameo, as Teddy's ex, in more ways than one.

There is a bigger film here and it's unfortunate that the makers saw to
keep it short and sweet. While "Sexy Beast" is fun in its psychedelic noir,
there should have been more to it. I never thought I would willingly say
that a film should be longer than it is, but that is what is needed here.
The caper sequence is handled so quickly and stylishly, with an underwater
break-in as the linchpin, I wanted to see more, particularly of Teddy Best.
There could have been a great ruthless bad guy performance if McShane had
more screen time.

The techs, from camera, by Ivan Bird, to sets and locales and costumes, are
of a mind with the color-saturated eye of helmer Glazer. Frequent surreal
scenes, with Gal's nightmares prominent, also lend to the noir nature of
this modern gangster parable. At first, I compared "Sexy Beast" to the
classic Brit gangster flick, "The Long Good Friday," but comparison falls
apart pretty quickly, and in the end, it feels more akin to "The Hit" with
a dollop of "The Godfather 3" thrown on top. I give it a B-.

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