Sexy Beast

A retired British gangster called Gary Dove (Ray Winston) is living it up in his villa in Spain. He lazes around his pool all day topping up the tan with his ex-porn star wife, Deedee (Amanda Redman). He looks happy, content to be finished with the crime world in general and prison in particular. Unfortunately for Gary an old associate of his, Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) feels he is the right man for a team that he is putting together and he won´t take no for an answer.

This is director Jonathon Glazer´s first film and I think it is an impresive debut. Billed as another British gangster flick, it is in fact highly original and a great deal more intelligent than the usual fare. Glazer has contrasted the idyllic Spanish villa, which provides the setting for most of the action, with the grey, fast-paced life of a gangster in London. Some of the shots are excellent, such as the camera attached to a huge rolling boulder as it tumbles down the hillside towards our hero. He has also included dream sequences which gradually filter into Gary´s life and mirror his growing anxiety as events become more and more stressful.

Ben Kingsley and Ray Winston have a chat

The acting is superb throughout, Ray Winston plays the crooked part again, something he is obviously used to, but in this case his character really does want out, he is happy with retirement and has no desire to enter into criminal life again. Ben Kingsley is incredible as the self-possessed and completely psychotic Don Logan, an intense character who stares at whoever he is talking to with a frightening intensity as he reads their thoughts. The fact Kingsley can go from playing the ultimate pacifist as Gandhi to the ultimate paranoid hardman so convicingly is testament to his acting skills. Amanda Redman played her part well and her character provided further explanation for our hero´s desire to lead a quiet life. The weak link for me was Ian McShane as the gangster further up the food chain who put the whole job together, he acted well but I didn´t find him convincing in the role, perhaps partly because of his past roles in lightweight tv shows like Lovejoy.

The script is excellent and gets the best out of the main players, this piece is fairly heavily dialogue driven and could probably be done with minor adjustments on the stage (in fact it might have been already). There is some action as the climax blends together the job and the final showdown between Gary (Winston) and Don (Kingsley) but the general pace of the film is quite relaxed.

At just under an hour an half it is all over fairly quickly and the ending is not entirely satisfying. I thought it was a little contrived but judge for yourselves. The music was good for the context and got excited at the right moments without ever becoming overly noticeable.

Overall I enjoyed this film and would praise it for the incredible acting (especially Kingsley), the original direction and the quality dialogue. The main characters were nicely developed instead of the two dimensional hoods you tend to get in most of the other British gangster flicks released. The scenes with Winston and Kingsley were the best and it was a novelty to see Kingsley playing the top dog, or Daddy, as Winston struggles to get out of the job without causing offence, although he manages to cower with dignity and never becomes pathetic. There was an obvious chemistry between the two and consequently their scenes together had the most gravity and realism.

If you fancy an intelligent twist on the gangster theme then you can´t go wrong with this, just as long as you aren't expecting action-packed violence.

Reviewed by Simon Hill

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