Judge Clark Douglas is a sexy beast, if by "sexy beast" you mean "entirely ordinary dude."
Our review of Sexy Beast, published February 21st, 2002, is also available.
There's a bit of a beast in all of us.
"Oh yeah. Bloody hell. I'm sweating in here. Roasting. Boiling. Baking. Sweltering. It's like a sauna. Furnace. You can fry an egg on my stomach. Ohhh, who wouldn't lap this up? It's ridiculous. Tremendous. Fantastic. Fan-Dabby-Doozy-Tastic."
Facts of the Case
Gal Dove (Ray Winstone, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) is a retired British gangster currently living in Spain. He's happy with his new life: he's happily married, he has a lovely home with a swimming pool and things are exceptionally peaceful. Alas, his serenity is shattered when he receives a call from former business associate Don Logan (Ben Kingsley, Hugo), who wants Gal to join him on a high-stakes bank heist. Gal has no interest in returning to a life of crime, but Don isn't the sort of man you turn down. Can Gal find a way to get the ferocious Mr. Logan off his back?
At this point, Sexy Beast is mostly remembered as the movie in which Ben Kingsley delivered one of the most astonishingly intense performances of his career. That's fair to a certain extent, as Kingsley really is remarkable and effectively steals the movie from his gifted co-stars. Even so, what's largely been forgotten is that the rest of the film is an exceptionally inventive, playful crime drama that constantly works hard to keep the viewer engaged.
The movie wins the viewer over from the very beginning with its no-holds-barred shots of the generously-proportioned Ray Winstone sunbathing while muttering narration that falls somewhere between hard-boiled and orgasmic. Then, a boulder comes tearing down the hillside, narrowly misses Gal and lands in the pool. It's an on-the-nose but entertaining summary of what's to come, as Gal will soon have another frightening encounter with a different force of nature.
Ray Winstone specializes in playing brutish characters, and Gal is certainly no saint, but he's one of the actor's sweeter creations. Yes, he's clearly a man with a rough past, but he's now content to simply dote on his wife and appreciate life. The notion of a big payday isn't even remotely tempting to him; he's far more concerned about what returning to a life of crime could do to his relationships and to his peace of mind. Winstone forms the movie's heart; keep an eye out for a subtle, lovely moment near the conclusion when Gal takes stock of his situation and accepts what life has handed him.
Even so, Kingsley is the actor that everyone remembers, and for good reason: the actor is nothing short of astonishing in the role of Don Logan, bringing a savage energy to the part that is equally funny and frightening. It's amazing how quickly Kingsley veers between deadpan calm and explosive rage. Every scene Kingsley appears in is worthy of the actor's highlight reel, from his profane entrance to his prickly conversations with Gal to the wickedly funny airport interrogation to the film's bizarre, wonderful closing shot. The actor had been best-known for his sensitive performances in films like Ghandi and Schindler's List, but Sexy Beast permitted him to demonstrate that he could be as hardcore and hilarious as any actor in the world. Others who worked on the film have told stories of Kingsley's intensity causing them to completely forget their lines, which isn't difficult to believe.
The film was the directorial debut of music video guru Jonathan Glazer, who seems intent on showing off at every possible opportunity. That's okay by me; this is the sort of film that benefits from ceaseless flourishes. Offering flashy cinematography, hallucinatory interludes, a constantly-shifting timeline and a host of colorful montages, the director keeps things moving at all times. He does particularly strong work during the film's big heist sequence, but ironically, that sequence is the least interesting in the film as it forces the characters to stop talking and sets Don aside entirely. The characters are so rich that we simply want to see them bicker with each other endlessly; it's a little disappointing when we remember that they have a crime movie plot to get back to. Still, the more plot-driven second half of the film does receive a nice boost courtesy of Ian McShane (Deadwood), playing a high-profile criminal with steely resolve.
Sexy Beast (Blu-ray) has received a rather good 1080p/2.35:1 transfer from the folks at Twilight Time, though I was a little alarmed by the huge amount of scratches and flecks present during the opening credits. Thankfully, that improves as the film moves along, and detail is exceptional throughout. Depth is also satisfactory, while colors are bright and vibrant. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track does a nice job of highlighting the flavorful soundtrack, with a few sequences proving exceptionally immersive. Supplements include a commentary with Producer Jeremy Thomas and Ben Kingsley, an EPK-style making-of featurette, an isolated score track, a trailer and a booklet featuring an essay by Julie Kirgo.
Sexy Beast is a remarkably engaging gangster drama highlighted by one of Ben Kingsley's most colorful performances. Recommended.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Twilight Time
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