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Sexy Beast (2000)
Sexy Beast is a 2000 British-Spanish crime drama film directed by Jonathan Glazer and starring Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, and Ian McShane. Produced by Jeremy Thomas, it was Glazer's debut feature film, who had previously been a music video director for videos such as Rabbit in Your Headlights for British electronica group UNKLE, and commercials for companies such as Guinness and Levi. The film earned Kingsley an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In 2004 the magazine Total Film named Sexy Beast the 15th greatest British film of all time. Ex-con and expert safe-cracker Gary "Gal" Dove (Ray Winstone) has served his time behind bars and blissfully retired to a Spanish villa with his beloved wife Deedee (Amanda Redman). He also has the company of longtime friend Aitch and his wife Jackie. Their idyllic life is shattered by the arrival of an old criminal associate, sociopath Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), who is intent on enlisting Gal in a bank heist back in London. Organizing the heist is Teddy Bass, a powerful crime lord, who has learned about the bank's vault from Harry, the bank's CEO whom he met at a sex orgy.
Gal (Ray Winstone), an old time ex convict, is now retired. All he does is sweat by the pool, enjoy his form porn star wife Deedee (Amanda Redman), and share drinks with a couple of good friends. The setting is Spain, the sun is hot, and life is free of trouble... until, of course, one day when the peace must be disturbed -- and it is, by a guy named Don Logan. Presumably the titular sexy beast, Don (Ben Kingsley) appears on the scene and hell breaks loose as Gal gets back into his life of crime.
If you remember Kingsley's roles in Gandhi, Death and the Maiden, or Schindler's List, you'll definitely be surprised. His Don Logan, with bald head, goatee, and wiry physique resembles a cobra when he is silent and a crazed cockroach when he speaks. Don's years in organized crime have destroyed anything human he might have once had; he is now spooky, profane, socially maladroit, and extremely annoying.
And he's anything but sexy. In one scene, Don furiously leaves the airplane after refusing to extinguish his cigarette. Detained by Spanish officials, he concocts a story of a sexual assault by a steward -- the most darkly humored and misbegotten story of sexual harassment one could conceive of.
As an actor, Kingsley has achieved what was required of his beastly Don: You want to strangle him when he spits out profanities and run away when he moves toward you. The rest of the characters -- Gal (as played by Winstone, who has delivered strong, nuanced performances in Nil By Mouth and The War Zone), his wife, their friend Aitch (Cavan Kendall), and the ominous mob boss Teddy Bass (Ian McShane) -- are all second-hand parodies of cinematic stereotypes. The film tries to convey Gal's emotional turmoil in escaping his newfound life of crime, but it is really only able to rise to B-movie standards.
Sexy Beast marks the directorial debut of award-winning commercial and music video director Jonathan Glazer. And I would sincerely hope that after this film tanks, Glazer will be content, just like Gal at the Spanish villa, to go back to more familiar terrain. Sexy Beast, conceived as a black comedy/thriller and shot as a commercial, occasionally drips with irony and sometimes gives you pause, not knowing whether to wince or laugh. But mostly it just makes you shrug. Well, perhaps that was the idea.
Beast of burden.