Sexy Beast (2000)

R   |    |  Crime, Drama, Thriller


Sexy Beast (2000) Poster

Brutal gangster Don Logan recruits "retired" safecracker Gal for one last job, but it goes badly for both of them.


7.3/10
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  • Ian McShane in Sexy Beast (2000)
  • Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast (2000)
  • Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast (2000)
  • Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast (2000)
  • Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast (2000)
  • Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast (2000)

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26 July 2002 | Buddy-51
strong performances, interesting drama
In `Sexy Beast,' Ben Kingsley delivers a bone-chilling performance as the man everyone loves to hate, a role for which he earned not only universal critical acclaim but a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination as well. Don Logan is so evil that even his fellow mobster buddies fear and hate him. From our very first glimpse of him high-strutting his way through an airport terminal, Kingsley hits just the right note for his character. Cleverly, writers Louis Mellis and David Scinto have paved the way for this entrance by introducing Logan ahead of time in a series of conversations in which just the mere mention of his name sets off portentous reverberations amongst the people discussing him.

Chief among those people is the film's protagonist, Gal, Logan's `retired' ex-partner in crime, who wants nothing more than to be allowed to enjoy life undisturbed in his seaside Spanish villa with his swimming pool and the wife he loves so dearly. But Gal soon discovers that a person cannot escape his past forever, when Logan suddenly shows up at his doorstep demanding that Gal join his own personally hand-picked gang of seasoned criminals whom Logan has brought together to pull off a major heist back in Merry Olde England. Gal would like nothing better than to send Logan home packing empty handed, but he also knows that defying Logan can be the fastest route to an early demise. It is this atmosphere of fear and dread that director Jonathon Glazer uses to make `Sexy Beast' such an engrossing and off beat little crime drama.

In fact it is the THREAT of violence, far more than the violence itself, which distinguishes this tale. Without the use of weapons of any kind, Logan is able to cow and terrorize a roomful of reasonably fearless adults simply by his steely-eyed demeanor and the unpredictable nature of his temperament. Seemingly controlled and rational one moment, he can suddenly erupt into a volcano of exploding anger the next. One of the most chilling moments in the film occurs aboard a departing airplane in which Logan refuses to douse his cigarette, thereby precipitating a confrontation with the flight crew. Logan has that quality that distinguishes all great villains: he throws us back on our heels by his refusal to conform to the social amenities that the rest of us simply take for granted and which put us at a decided disadvantage when faced with the evil characters of the world who know no rules and flagrantly disregard the ones we follow. He reminds us of how weak and vulnerable the rest of us really are.

Logan, for all the intensity generated by his character, is not, however, the focal point of the film. Gal, brilliantly played by Ray Winstone, who provides a fascinating counterpoint to Logan's no-holds-barred villainy, occupies that position. Despite his criminal background, Gal wins us over by his openhearted frankness, his sincere devotion to his wife, friends and neighbors, and his obvious desire to lead a straight life from hereon out. Winstone underplays his scenes superbly, yet he never allows himself to be acted off the screen by the fiery Kingsley. (One should mention that the heavy cockney accents of the characters make what they are saying a bit incomprehensible at times).

As is not uncommon in gangster movies these days, Glazer manages to inject an element of black humor into the proceedings. The comedy often takes the form of twisted surrealism, such as when a giant boulder rolls down a nearby hillside and lands plop in Gal's beloved pool, barely missing taking Gal to the bottom with it. The filmmakers also have an effective way of heightening the tension through indirection, particularly in the early scenes which prime us to dread Logan's entrance as much as the characters who don't want to see him – and we haven't even met him yet. This technique of telegraphing information ahead of time contributes immensely to heightening the suspenseful quality of the film.

`Sexy Beast' provides superb performances, a nasty sense of humor and a fascinating glimpse into the dark side of human nature.

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