Projections - Movie Reviews

Sexy Beast

Sexy Beast

Sexy Beast may be somewhat of a misnomer but Jonathan Glazer's debut film which slyly shifts between Costa del Sol Spain and London is a stylish, unrelenting caper flick driven by its characters, the main ones played by Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley don't seem very sexy but they have the qualities of beasts.

This surprising, enticing and well-edited British feature has strong interplay between the blonde Winstone's "Gal" Dove and Kingsley's hard-edged Don "Malky" Logan and uses the notion of one's dark past being difficult to escape.  And the British neophyte helmer often employs a taut feel to the proceedings as it infuses the gangster genre with the motif of redemption and the power of love.

Gal is an ex-criminal once a nemesis of Don in his days of larceny before doing his time and finding life peaceful at a Spanish villa.  Sexy Beast becomes boldly alluring based on Gal's promise of living on the right side of the law to wife Deedee (Amanda Redman).  And the early sections make a discernible conflict pleasing as Winstone's Gary, much different than his strong virile types in The War Zone and Nil By Mouth, is aggressively pursued by Kingsley's abusive Don as the normally stately thespian revels in this dynamic role much like Terence Stamp in the equally involving caper set in the LA underworld, The Limey.

And besides Steven Soderbergh's compelling, sharply edited film which had Stamp tearing through anyone to find out what happened to his daughter Jenny, Glazer also smartly borrows from Guy Ritchie's wildly suspenseful and unpredictable Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and this year's Snatch with a playful frenetic, heated moments contrasted sharply with placidness and cajoling.

The writing partners of Louis Mellis and David Scinto who have scripted gangster life on the stage give rich parts to a tanning almost heroic Winstone and especially Kingsley who infuses Sexy Beast with a surging sinister force that often provides its best moments when he's on-screen.  And Mellis and Scinto don't restrict the performers in this moody tale which plays in three parts, the first working off of Gal's peace in Spain though his past is deeply rooted in his mind.  The latter two add to the heightened visual palette from Glazer with Don's scary presence and the setting of an ominous London job in order to try and save face which has the texture of gritty 60's caper flick.

Sexy Beast works in some lighter, if striking moments as all the while the plot steam-rolls on the opportunity to be a part of a bank heist, but remains impassioned with Don's impulsive playing of a poker hand that involves people in Gal's home life.  In addition to Redman's targeted Deedee because of her former occupation as a porn star, Julianne White is a friend of Deedee and Don's old flame, and Alvaro Monje puts some convincing fright into Gal's Spanish house boy, Enrique.  The dark, criminal backbone of Sexy Beast comes from Ian McShane's mafioso boss in cahoots with Logan and mastermind of an elaborate underwater robbery which involves Turkish baths.

In the last reel, Glazer has a couple of tricks up his sleeve as Gal tries to keep his secret from McShane's ring-leader Teddy Bass who happens to arrive at the home of an old friend, James Fox's perplexed Harry, who's not privy to the trouble from a man whom he knew very well.

Under Glazer's assured direction which Winstone and most noticeably Kingsley respond to within all the tension and lighter moments within the rough-housing and verbal and physical threats, Sexy Beast mostly is a vicious pleasure before the big heist which is Gal's expression of devotion for Deedee.  But the image that will linger the most after watching at least two beasts totally dissimilar save their careers is a huge boulder waywardly falling into Gal's quiet existence.  This odd, but visceral set piece serves as a cracking, drenching wake-up call for a man driven like all of the other flawed characters by urges which attract him into the world of a psychopath and a charismatic crime lord.

Sexy Beast

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