Sexy Beast

The high life. Gal (Winstone) loves his new life in Spain...
dir Jonathan Glazer
scr Louis Mellis, David Scinto
with Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane, Amanda Redman, Cavan Kendall, Julianne White, Alvaro Monje, Darkie Smith, James Fox
FilmFour-Fox 00/UK 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Strikingly directed by Glazer, a veteran of Guinness adverts and Radiohead videos, Sexy Beast is a slightly above average British crime comedy because of the insightful wit in its script, direction and performances.

Gal (Winstone) is a retired London gangster now living on Spain's Costa del Sol with his ex-porn star wife DeeDee (Redman). Both are determined to put their pasts behind them, so it comes as a bit of a shock when their best friends (Kendall and White) tell them Gal's wanted in London for a big job being planned by the slick Teddy Bass (McShane). Then Teddy's edgy, frightening henchman (Kingsley) comes to Spain himself to make Gal an offer he can't refuse.

From the astonishing opening scene, Glazer establishes an unusual visual style that brings us into the story and characters. The colourful settings are palpable--sunny, expansive Spain contrasted with grainy, dark London. And Winstone so inhabits Gal that we can understand his most subtle thoughts and intuition. Admittedly, this isn't much of a stretch; the very watchable Winstone plays this kind of character in every crime film that comes along. But this role gives him more subtext than usual. (Kingsley walks off with the film with a shockingly tough, intimidating, hilarious turn unlike anything we've seen him do before.) As Gal is reluctantly sucked back into crime, the script deftly avoids the usual cliches and structures. The result is something fresh, unusual and both very funny and often quite scary. And it actually has something to say as well--nothing terribly deep, mind you. But at least, unlike most other British crime comedies, there's a memorable point to it all.

[18--strong language, violence, themes] 20.Oct.00
UK release Jan.01; US release 8.Jun.01

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"The tired premise of an ex-con being persuaded to do one last big job is given a unique and original spin in this very enjoyable crime flick. Winstone is Gal Love, the ex-con who's done his time and now happy with his lot soaking up the rays and beers in Spain. His lazy lifestyle with his ex-porn wife Dee Dee (Amanda Redman, excellent) and his best mates Aitch (Cavan Kendall) & Jackie (Julianne White) is disrupted when he discovers that he is wanted for a big job in London. What's worse, is that the dreaded Don Logan (Kingsley) is coming to Spain personally to persuade Gal to do it. Gal is adamant that he is retired but the clearly uneven Don is having none of it - he's not leaving Spain until Gal is bloodied, bruised and belittled into accepting the job. Back in London, the evil ganglord Teddy Bass (Ian McShane) has organised the daring heist and when Gal arrives in London and Don goes AWOL, Gal tries to remain low-key as Teddy's deep eyebrows are slowly and questionably raised. Debut director Glazer's visual virtuousity is limited to just a few interesting shots (mainly due to the budget) but this is actually a good thing as anything aesthetically flash would detract from Winstone's and Kingsley's wonderful performances. The uneasy dread eminating from Winstone towards the latter end of the film is mesmerising and Kingsley is simply spellbinding as the deranged Don Logan - it's like he took Gandhi to the gym for a 6-week workout and emerged a psychopath. The script (by newcomers Louis Mellis and David Scinto) sizzles in the Spanish sun and submerges in murky London. The soundtrack adds a raw edge to Gal's no-win situation and the supporting performances from all concerned are a real treat. Sexy Beast is very desirable indeed." --Danny Stack, UK 27.Jan.01.

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall