Kingsley goes from Gandhi to Gang-die
"Sexy Beast" is basically one of many recent British gangster movies where we get a mix of snappy editing, full on characters and a lot of swearing. But "Sexy Best" has something which makes it stand out, which makes it stay with you long after other movies fade from your memory and that are two performances which are so forceful that they take you aback. I am on about the performances of Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley as they are so powerful, so edgy in different ways that every second they share on screen sizzles with volatile tension. That's not to say the rest of "Sexy Beast" doesn't work as it most certainly does but it is Winstone and Kingsley who make this movie the triumph that it is.
After a life of crime Gary 'Gal' Dove (Ray Winstone - Love, Honour and Obey) has retired and enjoys his life in Spain with his wife Deedee (Amanda Redman) and his friends Aitch (Cavan Kendall) and Jackie (Julianne White). But their peaceful existence is interrupted by the arrival of volatile London thug Don Logan (Ben Kingsley - Dave) who shows up to get Gal to agree to return to England to do one more job and he will do what ever it takes to make sure Gal agrees. But with Gal having promised Deedee that he will never do another job it becomes a violent battle of wills.
Now it has to be said that "Sexy Beast" delivers one of the most surreal but memorable opening sequences you will ever see. From watching Ray Winstone sun bathe, his tanned skin looking like leather to the minute a boulder careers down the mountain side narrowly missing his head and into the pool you can't take your eyes off of things. But that is just the opening, an opening which you wonder where it will fit in but it eventually does.
Anyway to the actual storyline, well "Sexy Beast" is a British gangster movie and so on face value it appears to be about Gal being forced out of retirement from his happy home in Spain to return to England to do one more job. As such there is something familiar to the set up as the one more job for a criminal has been done before and whilst watching the actual bank job is creatively entertaining there isn't anything special about it.
But in a way "Sexy Beast" isn't really about Gal doing the robbery, it is about his character not wanting to return, battling against the volatile Don who has been sent to Spain to persuade him to return. And as such "Sexy Beast" becomes about two performances those of Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley. Now Winstone is most certainly at home in these sorts of British gangster flicks, playing the wide boy quite brilliantly but here the volatile side of his character is restrained. Instead we have Winstone almost playing it for laughs as he tries to keep a promise to his wife not to return to a life of crime.
And then there is Ben Kingsley, remember Ben Kingsley who played Gandhi, well this will be a shock as in Don Logan he is such a vile little thug that he leaves you speechless. From the tension in his body as he looks around, the evilness of deliberately urinating on the bathroom floor to the expletive filled language which spews from his mouth, this is the sort of thug you most certainly don't want to meet on the street because he will turn on you for shits and giggles. Because Kingsley is so extreme whilst Winstone is laid back the confrontations between them spark as we watch Kingsley doing what ever he can to get Winstone to say yes to one more job.
There is more to "Sexy Beast" than just this power play between Winstone and Kingsley there are some enjoyable twists, not necessarily surprising twists but enjoyable ones. And there is plenty of humour be it Gal and his friend Aitch's terrible hunting trips in Spain through to the relationships between Gal, Aitch and their wives. As such the performances from Amanda Redman, Cavan Kendall and Julianne White are just as good as those from Winstone and Kingsley as is Ian McShane's performance as top criminal Teddy Bass which is also an eye opener.
What this all boils down to is that "Sexy Beast" is on one hand just another British gangster movie full of snappy edits and an abundance of expletives. But it is memorable thanks to the brilliant performances of Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley which keep you watching, keep you on the edge of your seat yet also amused.