Sexy Beast reminds most about the glory days of British cinema, the era of 'Get
Carter', 'Alfie' and the film this has a lot in common with, 'The Long Good
Friday'. Portly Ray Winstone plays Gal Dove, a retired criminal living in Spain
with his ex-porn star wife and some friends from the old country. We see the
life he's living in the opening scene with him lounging around his pool while
the houseboy cleans up. Dove lies there baking in the sun is his yellow bathing
suit thinking about how much good his life is. The boy's not doing something
right so Dove stands up to show him how it should be done. He glances at the
pattern at the bottom of the pool and then a big boulder comes down off the
mountain, over his head and into the pool severing the twin heart pattern below.
That boulder is symbolic for the trouble about to enter Dove's life.
James Fox plays a member of an exclusive club who also owns a bank that cannot
be robbed; Ian McShane plays the crime boss who would love to prove him wrong.
In order to do this McShane needs a team so he sends Don (Ben Kingsley) Logan
down to Spain to bring back Dove. Dove says no but no one tells Don Logan no.
Ben Kingsley plays Don Logan as a tightly wrapped piece of metal wrapped in
barbed wire. His only concern is what he wants, i.e., Dove's participation,
another man's wife, the quality of language, and the right to smoke on an
airplane. Everyone is scared of him and he could care less. He sits upright,
walks with a purpose and watches all. The war of wills between Logan and Dove is
the best part of Beast because it seems to be going on even when it is not. We,
as an audience know that Dove is going to do the job because Logan will have it
no other way.
The film kicks into a higher level in London because we wonder what has happened
to a member of the cast. We witness something that is left open but the deep
down we know someone is dead back in Spain. The actual robbery is done in a
casual but creative way. We see how the bank can be broken fairly early in the
film but director Glasner revisits the scene to show us. The whereabouts of
Kingsley and Dove's wife are very important to Dove's survival. The moments
surrounding his fate after the job is done are some of the tensest moments seen
this year. And in the end, Don Logan gets his way and his ultimate reward.
The one element in Beast that doesn't work as well as the rest of the film is
the decision to introduce a dream character into the film. From time to time
Dove dreams of a six-foot blue furred beast that shows him his fate but it just
confused most of the audience whenever it appeared.
The performances in the film are uniformly excellent. Winstone is a Jackie
Gleason lookalike who looks pleasant on the outside but seethes inside. He
enjoys his new life and all it's trappings and will do anything to keep it.
Kingsley (and the film) angles for Academy consideration as the man who doesn't
even respect the sanctity of a man's carpeted bathroom floor. Ian McShane has
had a long career. He began playing pretty boy types but as he has gotten older
his choice of roles changed. He has always had hooded eyes but with the passage
of time those eyes make him look more sinister than charming. The charming part
of his personality is apparent in the beginning of the film but the car ride he
takes with Winstone shows casual cruelty. His final line is a classic.
Director Jonathan Glasner began as a music video director but here he avoids the
mistakes most novices make. We never learn exactly who the sexy beast of the
title is but the ride is so entertaining we forgive the screenwriters.