1 May 2009

The Year 2001: Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer)

Who can forget Ben Kingsley's ferocious turn in Jonathan Glazer's Sexy Beast? The man that played Ghandi, the waif like figure of non-violent protest, comes up with one of the most iconic psychopaths ever to grace the screen in Glazer's directorial debut, about an ex-gangster trying to escape his past in sunny Spain but his past comes a knocking. Once again we're graced by the presence of Edward Copeland, from Edward Copeland on Film; home to a bastion of fabulous writers tackling the best of cinema, tv and popular culture, with this wonderful appreciation for Counting Down The Zeroes, in which he praises Kingsley as 'one of the most fearsome screen creations ever summoned'.

Don Logans of the world, prepare: Anyone who meets you for the first time after seeing Sexy Beast will likely look upon you with a sense of unease. Ben Kingsley gets the blame for this, because the Don Logan he creates in Sexy Beast takes his place alongside some of the most fearsome screen creations ever summoned.

While Kingsley steals the picture, Ray Winstone stars. Winstone plays Gal, a retired British thief who has abandoned his life of crime for a cushy life in a Spanish villa with his ex-porn star wife Deedee (Amanda Redman).

One night at dinner, they learn from their friends Aitch and Jackie (Cavan Kendall and Julianne White) that Logan is en route to lure Gal back to London for a heist. The sheer mention of Don Logan's name freezes the four in their tracks and with good reason. Logan is pure violence with a thick English accent. Gal is still determined to stay retired, but Logan doesn't plan to take no for an answer.

While the film is interesting throughout, it's when Kingsley takes charge of the screen that
Sexy Beast comes to life. His ferocious performance will astonish anyone who thinks of the Oscar winner only as Gandhi. Even his stillness sends shivers down one's spine. His scenes are funny and frightening at the same time, making Don seem like a calmer version of Joe Pesci's GoodFellas character.

The movie turns out to be an odd hybrid of crime drama, dark comedy and terse conversation reminiscent of playwright Harold Pinter. While Kingsley is the standout, he's not the only actor giving a great performance. In addition to Winstone, Redman, Kendall and White, there is a wonderful performance by Ian McShane as a London kingpin who is as cool as Logan is fiery.

First-time director Jonathan Glazer keeps the film moving, though it does suffer when Kingsley isn't on the screen. However, Don Logan's presence reverberates even when he's not there in person and makes Sexy Beast worth a look.


Mattson Tomlin said...

Glazer is wonderful, but his feature work needs more composure. Some of his ads are my favorite, favorite, favorite of all time (I highly recommend looking into them, just youtube Glazer Ads), he's really got a strong sense of style which comes out only minutely in Sexy Beast.

Kevin J. Olson said...

I remember this film for the obvious reasons: Winstone's fine performance, Kingsley stealing the show, and the gratuitous use of that, um, "C" word...

The film is fascinating if only because of Kingsley's performance and the way the viewer can't help but think that: "this was the man that played Gandhi?"

Great remembrances of a pretty standard heist film that was elevated by the performances and the amazingly colorful cockney profanity (at least it seemed colorful to this Yank).

J.D. said...

"Glazer is wonderful, but his feature work needs more composure."

I would have to disagree strongly with this statement. I think that his follow-up, BIRTH, was one of THE best films of this decade - incredible film.

Julie said...

The Year 2001: Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer)
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ray meds said...

I can't forget this strange character specially because the ridiculous terrible yellow swimming suit he was wearing, I think it was something no one could to forget.

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