Gary Dove (Ray Winstone) is an ex safe cracker now living in retirement in Spain. He and his best friend Aitch (Cavan Kendall) live idyllic lives in the Spanish sun but their relaxed lives are interrupted by the arrival of terrifying London gangster Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) who tries to forcefully persuade Gary to do another job back in the UK. Despite his protestations Don won’t take no for an answer and an uneasy standoff develops between the two men.
I’ve never been a fan of the Guy Ritchie style London based gangster films and get annoyed that British films are generally divided into costume drama or East End Gangster flicks. Sexy Beast feels very different from the Gut Ritchie style of film and reminded me more of a Nicholas Winding Refn film. The colour saturation, violence and electro, bass heavy soundtrack are all signatures of his work and had I been told this was one of his films I wouldn’t have doubted it. The film is actually the debut feature of Director Jonathan Glazer who is better known as a Director of adverts and music videos. He brings his easy on the eye style to the big screen and here creates a memorable film which also has one of the best Ben Kingsley performances I’ve seen.
Ben Kingsley’s Don Logan is seriously intimidating and I felt scared sat on my sofa. The character is very well written and Kingsley puts in a near career best which earned him an Oscar nomination. Logan’s instability and temperament provide much of the peril during the plot and he makes everyone around him feel ill at ease. Kingsley’s speech, temper and mannerisms are incredible to watch and listen to. Ben Kingsley is an actor who can run hot and cold and can sometimes go years between terrific performances but this is surely up there with his best. I also think that this might be Ray Winstone’s best performance to date. The Proposition might run it close but he hasn’t done much better than this.
The look and style of the film is something which really grabbed my attention. I thought that the overly saturated colour worked really well and the contract between Spain and London was heightened as a result. The internal scenes in London also had a great look to them which reminded me a little of Scorsese’s Mean Streets. There’s some great dialogue which mostly comes via Ben Kingsley. There is some terrific swearing and some of the best on screen insults I’ve heard too. The story is pretty good but I wanted a little more from the ending. The movie reaches a crescendo around two thirds in and from then on it never reaches its previous highs. Overall though it’s a thoroughly gripping film which has a great visual style and some terrific performances.
- The work fuck is used 115 times. Cunt is said 21 times.
- Apparently the other actors were so stunned by the ferocity in Kingsley's performance that they forgot their own lines.
- Anthony Hopkins was considered for the role of Don.