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UK 2001
Directed by
Jonathan Glazer
89 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Sexy Beast

Synopsis: London criminal Gary 'Gal' Dove (Ray Winstone) has retired to Spain where he lives with wife Deedee (Amanda Redman). His happiness is interrupted when Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) arrives with orders for Gal to return home for one last big job and won't take no for an answer.

Guy Ritchie kicked it off with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels - the wicked ways of London's East End hoodlums get a designer makeover with snappy visuals and a clubby soundtrack. Whilst being a descendant of that illustrious progenitor, Sexy Beast is not simply derivative. Stylistically hip it is (the opening over which the titles roll give you a good indication of this), yet rather than being caught up in its own allure, it takes a more sobering view of its subject matter.

As is usually the case with good movies these days, here is another first feature director Glazer managing to ring some new changes from well-worn material. With only a handful of main characters, the script has depth and plenty of bite, although for my money it was a tad slow to get going. One of its rewarding aspects is that it is about values even more than it is about lowlife and a City bank heist.

The heist, which is the plot pretext, is really incidental to the substance of the film, which is the crisis which Gal finds himself in when he attempts to break free of the world of his old confederates and their ruthless code of honour. Ray Winstone in a break-out role does an outstanding job portraying Gal, a seasoned trooper of the underworld yet someone who realizes there's more to life than nurturing a bad attitude.

His nemesis is Don Logan, played with terifying panache by Ben Kingsley, who is the quintessence of all that Gal wants to leave behind - an explosively violent sociopath, if not an outright psychopath. Whoever cast Kingsley for the role deserves congratulating. A specialist in artistically-sensitive types with a degree of piety that at times are little short of nauseating, here he is transmogrified into a very nasty thug. Anyone can bung on a Cockney accent and act tough but Kingsley creates another identity. Reprehensible as that identity is, he is compellingly real (if you're offended by out-and-out crassness you might like to give the film a miss) .

As for the title, well, it's not clear to what it refers. There is an interesting metaphysical personification of a beastly nature and Don Logan is a beast but he's definitely not sexy. Perhaps it's just a gimmick or perhaps it's Cockney rhyming slang. Sexy Beast is a tight package and in a way it's a pity that it will be seen to be so much in the shadow of Ritchie's East End creations. In years to come when that association is less clear this may look even better than it does today.




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