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Sexy Beast

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Sexy Beast

Starring: Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Rated: R
RunTime: 91 Minutes
Release Date: June 2001
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Ian McShane, Amanda Redman, James Fox, Cavan Kendall, Robert Atiko, Julianne White

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Mark Fleming review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
2.  Susan Granger read the review movie reviewmovie review
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---
4.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review

Review by Mark Fleming
3½ stars out of 4

Gal (Ray Winstone) is a retired hoodlum whose idyllic Spanish lifestyle is rudely interrupted. His past catches up in the form of Don (Ben Kingsley), a former gangster-acquaintance demanding his return for that perennial 'one last job'. This well-worn premise is enhanced by the claustrophobic dynamism of the encounters between Gal and Don, the scale of the various plot twists, and the surreally inventive method the gangsters eventually use to commit their heist. The verbose expletive-laced exchanges between the characters are threatening but often hilarious, and while we may recognize these furious duels from early Tarantino, they possess a spicy originality.

Sexy Beast is a world away from those British gangster films that seek to emulate by sheer plagiarism; style without substance has relegated many a pale imitator to the floor-level video shelves. From its audacious introduction, a sweat-glistening, trunks-sporting Gal, sun-baking to the strains of The Stranglers' grungy 'Peaches', via plummeting rocks, gangland slayings, to final resolution, this film is head and shoulders above recent stablemates.

Winstone takes another side-step away from his more-familiar blustering East End menace to portray a complex villain, capable of poignant tenderness with the woman he loves, but emotionally scarred by his former role in a London Firm. His fragile courage in hiding a truth that would cost him his life, for the sake of everything he holds dear, is way beyond the thuggish slapstick of so many gratuitous also-rans.

Readman has never looked or acted with more radiance. With penetrating sapphire blue eyes beneath jet black, she excels as the proud lover ready to stick up for Gal; but, like so many fugitives from an unsavoury past, all too easily unraveled. Ben Kingsley's hood is so far removed from his Gandhi that light would take years to travel between them. Playing courageously against type, his wiry shaven-headed fiend skirts a fine line between dark comedy and psychopathic danger. Within a handful of black-tongued volleys he launches articulated threat to dizzying new standards. You sense Don would intimidate most of the Corleones. Ian McShane, head of the London crew, fills the screen with a more introverted, but remorselessly dripping evil.

The sparseness of the Spanish brush is a perfect arena. Beneath the relentless sun the expats cluster around azure hacienda pools, or lounge by cocktail bars, plotting schemes and facing retribution. The eventual robbery is almost beautifully surreal.

In a movie where the bodycount is kept mercifully to single digits, the characters are given free rein. An air of tension hangs over the claustrophobic proceedings. Although there are several fantasy sequences involving a giant gun-toting hare which are unnecessary distractions, Sexy Beast is firing on all cylinders without leaving a trail of anonymous 2-dimensional corpses.

Copyright 2001 Mark Fleming

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