Sexy Beast

Nearly twenty years ago, Ben Kingsley won the Academy Award for his role in Gandhi. With his role as Don Logan in Sexy Beast, Kingsley shatters any leftover notions of a king, gentle, passively resistant Kingsley and cements the fact that he is a damn good actor. He is frightening as Don Logan, a criminal sent to Spain to try to coax another retired criminal out of hiding for one last heist. First, Logan looks menacing. He has a shaved head, beady eyes, and a goatee. When he starts, talking, it is obvious that he is one mean mutha. Kingsley (Rules of Engagement, What Planet Are You From?) has an explosive energy as Logan, as if he could kill somebody at any moment without batting an eye. Logan shifts between a raving lunatic and a cold, calculating schemer. He is cruel, intense, and effective both when he is yelling in an unintelligible English accent and coolly trying to convince Gary "Gal" Dove to come back to England.

Dove (Ray Winstone, The War Zone, Agnes Browne) enjoys his new life. Sexy Beast opens with him lazing by a pool, burning in the Spanish sun. He is content to swim, joke around with his poolboy, and meet his wife and friends for dinner and drinks for the rest of his life. Within a couple minutes, a huge boulder rolls down the hill, barely misses him, and crashes into his pool ruining the tiling. Oh, what a foreshadowing of things to come. Soon, his friends come with the news that Logan is arriving, casting a pall over their idyllic, lazy lives. Logan arrives and proceeds to pester, berate, harass, and intimidate Dove into going back to London. Sexy Beast is at heart a movie about Dove, although Logan steals the show every time he is on screen. Dove, self-admittedly not rich but comfortable, has to decide whether he wants to participate. Returning signifies everything he does not want. He loves the isolation and heat of Spain, in contrast to the dreariness of London. Here, he can do (and does) whatever he wants, which is usually nothing.

The internal struggle never quite emerges, because of Winstone's subdued performance. Dove could just care less at some points in the film. He looks reasonably irked that someone is disturbing him, and does not react substantively until after Logan becomes increasingly perturbed himself. Screenwriters Louis Mellis and David Scinto also never fully flesh this idea out. Sure, everybody is deathly afraid that Logan will go ballistic on them, but what else is driving Dove? The third act of the movie also helps muddle Dove's intentions. The first act is him relaxing, and the second is with Logan in Spain. The third act is a change of pace for everybody, and suffers because of a lack of Kingsley's character.

Strewn throughout the movie are lots of directorial flourishes by Jonathan Glazer. He plays with the camera using various angles, lending to an uneasy feeling for the viewer, especially when Logan is around. It's the little stylistic flourishes that help cover a script that isn't always there, and isn't that engrossing. The acting is good all-around, with Kingsley dominating every scene he is in. Winstone's portrayal is in line with his character, who would rather sit around and do nothing. Ian McShane (D.R.E.A.M Team, Con Man) is good as Teddy Bass, the mastermind behind the heist in London. Except for Logan, these criminals don't look too imposing, it's all in their attitude and the way they carry themselves. Bass is suave and quiet, yet something bad lurks just underneath his cool exterior. Everybody also has a streak of a dry, dark sense of humor running through them. So while Sexy Beast may not quite reach the heights that it should, it is still an enjoyable watch.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 31 minutes, Rated R for pervasive language, strong violence, and some sexuality.

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