To think Sir Ben played Gandhi once. Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Amanda Redman and Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley star in Sexy Beast.
Cast of Characters:
Gary “Gal” Dove – Ray Winstone
Don Logan – Ben Kingsley
Teddy Bass – Ian McShane
DeeDee Dove – Amanda Redman
Aitch – Cavan Kendall
Jackie – Julianne White
Enrique – Alvaro Monje
Harry – James Fox
Director – Jonathan Glazer
Screenplay – Louis Mellis & David Scinto
Producer – Jeremy Thomas
Rated R for pervasive language, strong violence and some sexuality
Ex-con and expert safe-cracker Gary “Gal” Dove (Ray Winstone) has served his time behind bars and is now living a peaceful, retired life with his ex-porn star wife DeeDee (Amanda Redman) in a Spanish villa. With the company of his longtime friend Aitch (Cavan Kendall) and his wife Jackie (Julianne White), life seems to be going great for him.
That peaceful, idyllic life of theirs is shattered to pieces when Dove’s former crime associate, sociopath Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), arrives, intent on enlisting Gal in a London bank heist being organized by Logan’s boss Teddy Bass (Ian McShane). Gal insists he’s done and wants nothing more than to move, but Logan won’t take no for an answer.
Sexy Beast is the familiar tale of a conman gone straight only to be brought back for one last job. It’s been told countless of times, this film in the Cockney vein of The Limey and The Long Good Friday. Despite familiar territory, Sexy Beast feels fresh ’cause of the invigorating characters given much care and love by the filmmakers and cast.
Director Jonathan Glazer has only made three feature-length films over the past 13 years. He recently delivered the brilliant Under the Skin this year. Sexy Beast was his feature-length debut, and prior to that he was known for his work in music videos and commercials. Glazer clearly shows a talent for quick, 30-seconds-or-less visual play that he developed from his pre-filmmaking days that gives the film a certain style a la Quentin Tarantino or Guy Ritchie without seeming copycat. His style definitely works like a quick punch (thanks to Roque Banos’s score and John Scott and Sam Sneade’s sharp editing), yet he and co-writers Louis Mellis and David Scinto wisely let the story unfold at a smooth pace, revealing new turns as it moves along.
For nearly 20 years, Ray Winstone has been an invaluable character actor, mostly known for his intimidating presence used in The Departed, Cold Mountain, King Arthur and The Proposition. It speaks volumes when men like Gary Oldman and Tim Roth cast you as the villain in their films (Nil by Mouth and The War Zone, respectively). Here, though, we get a much quieter turn from him. Gal’s a man that has served his time and is done with the business for good, or at least that’s what he wants. It’s only when push comes to shove that he finally gives in. Deep down, his ability to intimidate is still there, but Winstone also displays a vulnerability within Gal that not only rounds out the character, but also earns our sympathy.
Two supporting standouts are Ian McShane and Amanda Redman as Gal’s former boss and wife, respectively. McShane gives a fine performance as the smooth, soft-spoken Teddy Bass who’s capable of striking instant fear with nothing more than a smile that sees its way right through Gal’s lies. Redman shares a understated chemistry with Winstone that works wonderfully (the quieter moments between her and Winstone resonate the best). DeeDee loves her husband, and in true stand by your man fashion, she worries for him. But she’s also not afraid in any way to tell Don she’s fed up with his shit.
The real star of this film, though, is Ben Kingsley as the lunatic mobster Don Logan. Kingsley’s played everyone from Gandhi (his Best Actor winning role) and Meyer Lansky to Moses and Oskar Schindler’s accountant. If what he’s done up until this film hasn’t convinced you that he can play most any role, watching this film should do the trick. Throughout all his stares, ticks and profanity-laced tirades, Kingsley steals the show from pretty much everyone else. Logan is frightening not because of his presence (he looks half the size of Gal), but ’cause of his lack of fear and shame. This is an excellent, foaming at the mouth, stark-raving mad performance from Kingsley. His theatrical style outbursts is a perfect counter to the naturalism of Winstone’s performance, which makes for some terrific dialogue exchanges. It’s certainly over the top, but it’s one of those exceptions where over the top works beautifully.
The highlight of the entire film is when Don is told by a stewardess to put out his cigarette while on the plane, which results in him throwing a massive rant. I won’t reveal how he goes about it, but the way he weasels out of airport security is genius.
It’s a familiar story, but the characters, dialogue and Glazer’s direction breathe new life into it. Although certain stylistic touches seem unnecessary (e.g., the Donnie Darko rabbit ripoff), Glazer still shows a great gift for style that works more often than not. It’s the characters, though, that are the true standout here. Driven by a gifted cast, led by Ray Winstone and an electrifying Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast is a small yet thoroughly entertaining addition to the British gangster genre.