Ah, there’s nothing like a good crime film, is there? I haven’t seen one in a while, and this film helped me remember how good they can be. Sexy Beast, the directorial debut of Jonathan Glazer (whom I greatly admire), isn’t perfect, but it’s close enough if you’re looking for a fun and uniquely stylish film with some interesting characters (and let’s be real, who isn’t). It might fall a bit short on the profundity, but it’s an enjoyable film nonetheless.
Gary “Gal” Dove (a perfectly cast Ray Winstone) is a retired thief living in Spain. He chills out by his pool with his beloved wife Deedee (Amanda Redman) and their friends Aitch (sounds like “H,” played by Cavan Kendall), and his wife Jackie (Julianne White). It’s all a bundle of laughs until Jackie gets a call one day from Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), a very terrifying gangster they all thought they left behind in London. He wants Gal for one last job, but Gal doesn’t want to do it. Logan won’t take no for an answer, and they find themselves at an impasse.
It’s not that the film has a twist really, but going into the film blind, it doesn’t really play out the way one would expect. For that reason, I’m not going to go too much more into it, but suffice it to say that things stay interesting throughout the film’s 90 minutes. The story structure got very interesting in the middle, where the payoff to the first half of the story was delayed, then presented in flashbacks in the second half. It was a really effective way to let the events unfold and really had me guessing as to what was going on there for a while.
I would like to report that there isn’t a wasted second here, but unfortunately that’s not quite the case. There’s some weird stuff added in, like a boulder crashing into the pool that is obviously and ominously symbolic just for the sake of being symbolic, and even more confusing are the bizarre visions of a hairy animal out to kill our main character. Not much is really done with those except to provide with a wtf ending that doesn’t really need to be there. But for all of my griping, the film moves along briskly and none of these seemingly random additions are uninteresting.
This movie, for the most part, seems to be known for Ben Kingsley’s performance. I suppose it was unexpected at the time, that he could play a foul-mouthed sociopathic criminal. I don’t know why, but I guess his performance really didn’t take me by surprise. I mean he’s very watchable in this movie and has a great amount of energy. However, I ended up liking Winstone’s performance a whole lot more, just because I’ve only seen him in a few supporting roles up till now. Does he do anything particularly impressive? Not really. He’s playing his normal character I suppose, but I never really thought he would be able to anchor the movie as well as he did. (The character being that likable in comparison to Kingsley’s must have helped a bit too.)
The film is all done in this lurid, old school style that I ate right up. Right off the bat, it feels like a film out of the seventies. The cinematography by Ivan Bird captures the Spanish setting perfectly, and when we suddenly find ourselves in England the change is immediately apparent. Even though I’m not convinced they fit into the larger narrative, the more surreal scenes with the animal are hauntingly done. The film uses cg fairly well when it feels it needs to, but is much more satisfying when it stays old school.
I really enjoyed this movie. I really wish Glazer would make more of them. It seems to me that some surrealistic flourishes were added into this movie that really didn’t need to be there; the film could have just stayed with the straightforward crime narrative and relied on the story structure and the characters to keep things interesting enough. These elements don’t really drag the film down much though, and they end up being pretty easy to forgive in favor of a great story.
“Technically speaking, you were right. But you’re dead. So shut up.”
Long story short: 3.5/4
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