Sexy Beast

2000, Movie, R, 89 mins

Review

SEXY BEAST
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A color-saturated jolt of pure vicious energy, this darkly comic UK crime thriller has far more style than substance — but what style! Forget the story, a tired rehash of "one last job" clichés: The main event is the Mamet-esque battle of foul words between vintage hard-case Ray Winstone and the seething sociopath played by Ben Kingsley. The film opens with middle-aged Gary "Gal" Dove (Winstone) sausaged into a brilliant yellow swimsuit and slowly broiling in the Spanish sun to the discordant strains of The Stranglers' "Peaches." As Gal takes a half-hearted stroll around the pool, handheld fan buzzing, a gigantic boulder crashes into his pool, missing him by a hair's breadth. If Gal were superstitious, he'd recognize an omen. But he's just a laid-back thug who's left behind a life of bad deeds in England and settled into cushy, take-it-as-it-comes Costa del Sol retirement with his former porn-star wife, DeeDee (Amanda Redman). Even when best friends Aitch and Jackie (Cavan Kendall, Julianne White) show up quaking because gangster Don Logan (Kingsley) has called looking for Gal, he remains calm. Whatever Don wants, he'll just say he's not interested, Gal assures them. Don, it turns out, is assembling a crew for a London bank heist masterminded by oily boss-of-bosses Teddy Bass (Ian McShane). They're going to rob a supposedly theft-proof safe-deposit vault by tunneling in from the Turkish bath next door, and Don wants Gary in — no ands, ifs or buts. Gal goes, though because of the film's smoothly disjointed time frame — which glides sinuously between flashbacks, present-time action and the occasional dream sequence involving a deformed rabbit-beast — it's a while before we learn why Gal took the gig, or what prompted Don to pull a disappearing act that has the higher-ups in London asking pointed questions about when and where he was last seen. Unlike many music video veterans, first-time feature director Jonathan Glazer is capable of getting out of an actor's way, and the movie benefits immeasurably. Viewers who persist in thinking of Kingsley as Gandhi will get a particularly rude shock from his performance here, which is by any standard a masterpiece of bubbling belligerence. The usually volatile Winstone is a slyly benevolent foil to his fury, and the supporting cast — notably McShane and seamy aristocrat James Fox, for whom slumming with villains ends exceptionally badly — hold up their end with apparently effortless aplomb. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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