Sexy Beast (2001)
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Review Date: November 10, 2001
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Writer: David Scinto, Louis Mellis
Producers: Jeremy Thomas
Ray Winstone as Gal
Ben Kingsley as Don Logan
Ian McShane as Teddy Bass
A retired gangster is living the "good life" in Spain with his ex-porn star wife, when an old "business" acquaintance drops by with an invitation to re-join the old team for one more heist. Having promised his wife that he was out of the "business", he must figure out how to handle this dilemma and the extreme relentless nature of his old associate.
An original take on the whole gangster genre, with a pretty cool performance by Ben Kingsley, lotsa style and a groovy soundtrack, this film didn't have enough "meat" for my taste, felt repetitive at times and started off way too slowly. The creative touch on this film comes by the way of the old standard which generally has the lead conman contemplating his "last job" before retirement, right? (see HEIST or THE SCORE for perfect examples). Well, in this case, this guy has already retired, has performed his last job, but is now tracked down by one of his old colleagues and "asked" to help them once again. I put quotes around the word "asked" because the person sent to convince him doesn't really "ask" as much as he basically "tells" him that he's doing the job. And therein lies my lack of full-blown interest in the film. You see, the movie seems to spend 2/3 of its runtime trying to convince this fella to do the job, and it just got a little "old" after a while. Granted, it was pretty interesting to see Kingsley swear, bitch, moan, groan and threaten this dude for the first little bit, but how long before that starts feeling stagnant? Okay, I got it, he's a tenacious l'il fella of whom everyone seems to be scared shitless, but do we really need to see this for scenes on end, one guy lacing into a room full of grown adults, over and over again? The film didn't even really explain why everyone was so afraid of this bulldog of a man, other than the fact that he didn't really seem to care much about anyone or anything.

Don't get me wrong, I too was scared of the guy, but it just felt a little recycled after a while. Having said that, full credit goes out to the film for developing a different path in its narrative, most of which seemed to reside closer to character relations, and for keeping things stylish the whole way through (the opening scene of the movie is a classic-"Holy boulder, Batman!"). I also really liked the soundtrack of the movie, which grooved things just right, appreciated the lead performance by Ray Winstone, who delivered all of the believable elements needed to portray his "stuck-in-the-middle" type situation and the actual heist scene, which has got to be one of the most original robberies that I have seen in quite some time (I won't ruin it for you here, but it's a doozy!) I guess the British film industry took the success of LOCK, STOCK... to mean that British crime flicks were the way to go, as SNATCH, GANGSTER NO. 1 and now this film, are hitting our shores. All of the aforementioned films have got a lot of style, but in this one's case, I didn't think there was really all that much else happening, once things got going. And that's another problem with this flick, it just seemed to take too long to get going (folks actually walked out of my screening) and the heavy accents didn't help matters either.

So does Ben Kingsley deserve an Oscar nomination for his performance in this film? Well, I don't know. First of all, his character is really more of a "supporting actor" than anything, and even though his performance was top-notch, it was admittedly quite "one-note", but definitely very different from anything he's played before. Another super actor in the film was Ian McShane who played the crime boss Teddy Bass. Yikes, one stare from that guy and I was shitting bricks. All in all, formidable performances, a unique twist on an old tale, memorable scenes, but a little too slow at points, and not enough juice to entirely fill my palette.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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