Sexy Beast

In “Sexy Beast,” Ben Kingsley plays Don Logan, a British gangster who refuses to take no for an answer. Propelled by a macho swagger and a low tolerance for weakness, Logan is a “Sexy Beast.” Despite his rude and crude behavior, there’s something about Don Logan that makes him hard to resist.


Logan is a lethal motivational speaker, willing to go to any lengths to get what he wants. It’s all a game to Logan, who finds immense pleasure in letting the cat out of the bag or getting so close that he becomes an unwelcome appendage. He’s a real pain, and he’s about to become a pain in the side of former gangster Gary “Gal” Dove (Ray Winstone).

Living on the coast of Spain in a modest Hacienda, Gal enjoys his retirement. It allows him time to spend with his former porn star wife Deedee (Amanda Redman), lounge around the pool, and entertain close friends. Despite the way he pours out of his dental floss bathing suit, or that his hair is receding more than France during World War II, Gal is also a “Sexy Beast.”

The real pleasure of director Jonathan Glazer’s debut film “Sexy Beast” is watching Logan and Gal lock horns. When Logan comes calling with a favor, Gal refuses. He’s not in the game anymore. Logan doesn’t care. He wants Gal for a job, and the only answer is yes.

Winstone is such a brilliant actor that he has no problem keeping up with Kingsley’s emotional tour de force. Even though Gal may not be as intense as Logan, there’s a rock hard foundation under his skin. We suspect that Gal will give in and obey Logan, but not under Logan’s rules. That means Logan and Gal must come to some sort of comprise.

That compromise becomes a pivotal moment in Louis Mellis and David Scinto’s absorbing screenplay. Mellis and Scinto have created a nasty little slice of film noir. The characters and situations have all been painted with dark enamel. The writers have also created a terrific villain in Don Logan, a man so dark and cold he could freeze hell over.

Kingsley is so incredibly convincing that I wanted to kill Logan. I wanted to rip the arm from the theater chair and crawl up on the screen and stop this man. It’s a chilling performance that stays with you long after the film has been put back in the can.

The writers excel in creating short, punchy and at times ferocious dialogue. They manage to say so much in so little time. You don’t just get a sense of who these people are, you get to know them and understand them. Gal’s fears and trepidations aren’t just plot devices, they’re real concerns. Even before Logan arrives, the very mention of his name sends chills down Gal’s back. We don’t see the goose bumps, but we know they’re there.

That’s because Winstone convinces us that they’re there. His complete conviction draws us close to Gal, who despite the fact that he was a former gangster, appears to be just another bloke. We like Gal and Deedee and their friends so much that we don’t care what they did in their previous life. Amanda Redman shows great strength as a woman who knows that their new life is nothing more than a facade.

Glazer, a former music video director making his debut here, understands the mechanics of film noir. “Sexy Beast” is smart and quick. The dialogue comes at you like a hailstorm, while the plot is filled with dark and mysterious characters. Ian McShane is devilish as the crime boss who knows more than he’s letting on, and veteran James Fox has some delicious moments as Harry, the unsuspecting mark.

It’s always rare when good writing, directing and acting come together to create something so powerful and yet so entertaining. It’s even rarer when a film evokes such strong reactions that you want to become part of the action. “Sexy Beast” offers the best of all three worlds, a potent trifecta.

When a giant boulder comes tumbling out of the mountains towards Gal, we want to shout out. When Logan dares a flight attendant to make him put out a cigarette, we want to hold him down while the attendant bitch slaps him. When characters become that real, we’re dealing with something more than just your average Saturday afternoon fare. We’re dealing with fictional cinema verite.

“Sexy Beast” won’t be for everyone, especially people who believe that taking a risk means adding an extra dash of salt to your meat. “Sexy Beast” is for audiences who like their characters and dialogue served straight up, without apologies or regrets.

BEASTIE BOYBen Kingsley is deliciously demented as heartless thug

SEXY BEAST

Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Amanda Redman, James Fox, Julianne White. Directed by Jonathan Glazer. Rated R. 91 Minutes.

LARSEN RATING: $6



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