47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Lovers of bright, airy, farcical British humor are apparently not Jonathan Glazer's target audience. If you enjoy the occasional foray into the dank, dark underbelly of grimy black comedy, however, this should be right up your alley.
No plot spoilers here, but would say that there are certain parallels between what befalls the evil, soul-chomping antagonist, Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) and what eventually happens to the equally insensitive British mobster, Albert Spica (Michael Gambon) in Peter Greenaway's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. Kingsley is definitely the menacing lynchpin holding this movie together, though Ian McShane is not far behind him in his portrayal of a believably evil crime lord. Ray Winstone is an inspiration to middle-aged, beer-bellied Buddhas everywhere. Amanda Redman is a revelation as Gal's ex-porn star spouse. She plays the slow boil to perfection. Julian White is also superb playing the wife of Gal's slightly dim buddy, Aitch.
Which brings us to one of the minor qualifiers I have to warn viewers about. Unless you've grown up in one of the grubbier, East End sections of London, a lot of the dialogue is going to be incomprehensible to you. This is particularly true of Aitch (Cavan Kendall, Kay Kendall's brother). I would definitely recommend the DVD, as opposed to the VHS purchase, as the DVD has a subtitle feature. I can honestly say I was lost without it, before I utilized the function. Kendall also mumbles his lines, as do several other characters. Mumbling and thick, cockney accents do not make for easy comprehension on the part of American viewers.
This film has a workmanlike plot, with strong performances from all hands. It's great, gritty, black comedy. The funniest thing I've heard for a while is the statement made by Kingsley that he based his character of Don Logan on his grandmother. She must have been quite a lady! I've also discovered, via IMDB, that there may be a link between the guy in the bunny suit and the anti-Harvey in Donnie Darko.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2001
I went to Sexy Beast last night not knowing too much about it except for the fact that Ben Kingsley was in it playing a gangster. As the movie progressed I watched in awe at how good this film actually was and couldn't help still thinking about it the next day. The plot is about an ex-gangster Gal (Ray Winstone) who is retired from his life of crime and wants nothing but to lay in the sun near his pool all day. Until a pyschotic figure from his past Don (Ben Kingsley) comes to his villa to try and persuade him into doing one last job. Although this sounds like your typical gangster plot, it is given a fresh spin by the films director Jonathon Glazer. He gives the crime/heist genre a new approach and really makes you think about the images he throws at you. As the movie moves forward towards the climax Mr. Glazer grabs you by the throat and holds you captive with tension until you sit forward and bite your nails. I couldn't help thinking that Jonathon is the kind of director who could be the offspring of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie. The radical editing techniques and cool imagery also add to the atmosphere of this movie. The film is wrapped up in oscar worthy performances by Kingsley & Winstone. Not only am I convinced that Kingsley can play any role now but he easily makes my top 20 actor list now. No villan can be complete without the hero and newcomer Ray Winstone who plays Gal steps up to the plate brilliantly. I see lots of work ahead for these two actors. The only thing I disliked about this movie is that the British accents we're so thick sometimes, that it was hard to follow in places. It gets easier to understand as you get into the characters and by 20 minutes into the movie I was all set. If your looking for a great movie in this sea of summer garbage tread to a good megaplex and find this movie.
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
On the commentary track for "Sexy Beast" director Jonathan Glazer reduces the film to the level of a Greek myth wherein once upon a time there was a man who thought he was happy and the gods sent him the unhappiest man on earth. It is the later figure, the gangster Don Logan, performed by Ben Kingsley in an Oscar nominated role, that dominates every moment on screen where he either appears or simply is being talked about, but the former, Ray Winstone as "retired" safecracker Gary "Gal" Dove, is a compelling, but much more subtle, character as well. Gal is living the good live in his villa in Spain, sunning himself by the pool, when something happens that we soon understand is clearly a warning shot from the gods. Gal is happy in his retirement, married to the woman he loves (Amanda Redman), who happens to be a former porn star. Then word comes than Don is on his way with a offer that Gal intends to refuse. However, nobody says "no" to Don Logan.
The scenes between Gal and Don in this script by Louis Mellis and David Scinto strike me as what Harold Pinter would produce if he was writing about gangsters and went overboard on the profanity. A conversation with Don is taking your life into your hands and Gal knows it, quietly dancing around the fatal rejection for as long as he can. Kingsley's Don is one of the scariest men ever to appear in a film, although I am not sure how much of that has to be the sheer shock at the idea that it is "Gandhi" on the screen who is launching into foul-mouthed tirades and radiating danger with every look and action (all without ever having a gun in his hand, I should add). This performance is astounding, and if it is unexpected that is only because we have taken Sir Ben for granted for a long time. Kingsley lost the Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Jim Broadbent, who had an advantage with strong performances in "Moulin Rouge" and "The Diary of Bridget Jones" to go along with the one for which he won in "Iris," but this is an unforgettable performance, assuming you get around to seeing the film.
Kingsley's performance is so overwhelming that you may well fail to notice how strong Winstone is as the film's lead. After all, it is Gal who is the title character, but Winstone's performance is so understated that it is can be rather underwhelming, especially in the face of Kingsley's performance. The other thing that almost gets lost is the plot, because there is something that can be gotten if only there is the will, because the way will be right behind. The caper is just crazy enough to make sense given the proceedings and we have to keep in mind that no matter how much of a mad dog Don Logan might be, there is somebody holding his leash at the other end. "Sexy Beast" is a very good film with more than one outstanding performance, but it is not going to be to everyone's taste given the violence and the profanity, although both are true to the world of these characters.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2002
There's a line in a Monty Python sketch about the effect a criminal has on his underlings: "I've seen men pull their own heads off rather than see Doug." That's the effect the news that Don Logan is coming to town has on retired criminal Gal. Gal's settled into his relaxing, lazy days under the Spanish sun, until a boulder the size of a small house flies over his head and rolls into his treasured swimming pool. Can you say "symbolic foreshadowing," boys and girls?...because Don Logan's about to slam into Gal's leisurely life with all the force and violence of a landslide, sent to recruit Gal out of retirement for one last heist, and absolutely NOT taking "no" for an answer .
In a movie where much of the first half consists of conflict through dialogue (it's almost a stage play in set-up), the performances are key, and "Sexy Beast" has no weak links. Ray Winstone has the unenviable task of holding his own against Ben Kingsley, and succeeds uncannily without resorting to caricature. His fear is palpable--you can almost smell the sweat at his being cornered like a rabbit with no way to break out. Even perennial TV guest star Ian McShane excels in the role of a slick and cunning criminal boss, a performance that breaks out of his usual pattern and won't remind you in the least of Lovejoy (McShane's most famous character, the genial art forger/detective).
But the standout performance is, of course, Ben Kingsley. Kingsley is brilliant as the manic, menacing Logan: fulfills the standard cliché of performing "a role that will surprise you"-Don Logan is sort of role Michael Caine made an icon in 1960s movies like the original "Get Carter"-tough, brutal, smooth, sexy, manipulative, and more than a little bit of a maniac: a man you don't say "no" to if you want to survive. The whole movie, in fact, has the feel of a 1960s British crime drama like "Get Carter" with the modern sensibilities of directors of today like Guy Ritchie. The movie may be a little too much a crime-genre film to garner Academy Award nominations, but both Kingsley's and Winstone's performances are worthy of an Oscar nod as a driven hunter and his prey.
Although once it gets to the heist itself, innovative as it is, the main drive of the film is lessened. Once Kingsley's off the screen, I began fidgeting, waiting for his return, and McShane's character matching wits with Gal is no substitute for vicious Don Logan. But that's the sole weak spot in an exceptionally powerful, dark-humored, violent but stylish movie that's not so much a heist caper as it is a sharp and penetrating look at the violence men visit on each other...and on themselves.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2001
Is 'Sexy Beast' drama or comedy? It doesn't matter, really, because it has a whole lot of both. Directed by Jonathan Glazer (a rising director of Guiness beer commercial fame), what makes this movie engrossing is the mentally (and sometimes physically) abusive relationship between retired criminal Gal (Ray Winstone) and the notorious Don Logan (Ben Kingsley). The entire first act foreshadows what's to come, and the sense of fear and dread, balanced by an ever-diminishing feeling of whimsy, is almost tangible.
This is a film that's worthwhile if only for the acting. Ben Kingsley's role is quite a departure from the benevolent, fatherly figures he's played in 'Gandhi' and the more recent 'AI'. He is, quite simply, stunning in this movie - he takes a character that everyone hates beyond words, who is so evil, crude, and determined, and makes him into one of the most powerful villains I've ever seen. I can't remember the last time I *hated* a character so much (but in a good way). Of course, Kingsley has a lot to play off with Ray Winstone's understated performance. Winstone balances Kingsley's obnoxious character; he quietly wares through the mental torture his character must endure. The cast of 'Sexy Beast' is incredible.
This isn't a movie for everyone... there are some very dark and violent moments, some sincerely funny moments, and at times the movie is a bit bizarre. I have to hand it to Jonathan Glazer, though, for making a movie that takes some artistic risks with an unconventional approach that, in my opinion, really pays off.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2001
But then I haven't seen them all. Now that I have your attention...from the opening notes of The Stranglers' "Peaches" playing on the soundtrack in the first scene, this movie grabbed me by the throat and didn't let go. Other reviewers have given you the plot. There are a couple of things that jumped out at me while watching this movie. First, it is cinematic! It is beautiful to watch. Each scene is carefully composed--not the usual TV-style mere framing of people speaking or doing something we so often see today. Second, it didn't fall prey to the Hollywood sinkhole of trying to throw a plot around young, sexy, thin people who look nothing like anyone you know. The women in this film are not thin, not young, but are able to radiate sexuality and power. The male supporting actors as well contribute mightily to the power of Ben Kingsley's character. Hey, don't they call this stuff "acting?" Well, it's done brilliantly by every actor in this movie. Third, "Sexy Beast" manages to be menacing AND funny. I wasn't sure if it was a thriller or a black comedy. And I don't care! I loved it! Go see it if you like movies that are just a bit outside.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2006
If you like gangster flicks, especially of the Cockney 'firm' variety, then you need to see this movie. SEXY BEAST is a fantastic but underrated indie classic. Like some of the other reviewers, I could watch this movie over and over again.
Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) is a retired London mobster now living in Spain, going to fat in idyllic bliss with his former porn actress wife Dee Dee (Amanda Redman) and their best friends, a married couple they've known from when they were back in the life. Into their domestic paradise enters Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), another 'old friend,' showing up unannounced, telling Gal he has a job for him and "No is not an answer."
Logan is one of those small wiry guys who make up for what they lack in height and muscle with an extra dose of psychotic meanness. Crime boss Teddy Bass (excellently played with menacing reticence by Ian McShane) is planning an ambitious heist on a prestigious bank, Logan is to help assemble the crew. Logan wants Gal in on the job and, as far as he's concerned, he's already made Gal's mind up for him. For Logan it is only a matter of how little stroking he will need to do before he strikes.
In one scene, it's late and everyone is in bed, except Logan who is in the bathroom shaving. Standing in front of the mirror he starts thinking about Gal's refusal earlier in the evening. He begins muttering. Needing to relieve himself, he continues thinking and muttering as he urinates all over the floor. By now, having worked himself up into a rage, he runs out the bathroom with shaving cream still on his face, down the hall and, screaming "No! No! No!" storms into Gal and Dee Dee's bedroom kicking and punching the poor man out of his own bed.
Another scene in the movie shows Logan sitting on a plane which will soon depart. Thinking nothing of consideration for fellow passengers, or rules and regulations, he lights up a cigarette. When one of the passengers mildly protests, Logan calmly but coldly informs the man that if he must put out the cigarette, he will be putting it out on him. When a flight attendant intervenes, Logan gets up, grabs his bag and --after telling all onboard he hopes the plane crashes and they all die-- demands to get off. After being removed and brought to airport security, Logan explains to the security officer the incident was all a case of nerves. He concocts a tale about a male flight attendant groping him while boarding! With a straight face, he tells the man that he felt violated and was literally in shock, not even realizing he was smoking a cigarette! Of course, he doesn't wish to make a fuss about any of it and would just like to leave and forget the whole thing.
He walks out the airport, right into a taxi and back to making Gal's life hell. I couldn't stop laughing!
Ben Kingsley does for SEXY BEAST what Joe Pesci did for GOODFELLAS. Both portray sociopaths, incapable of true consideration and comapassion. The way they selfishly crash through life is so disturbing it's comes off comical.
Not giving too much of the story away, but Gal does return to London to do the job. However, not for the reasons you might think. Instead, something occurs which makes Gal feel it necessary to get to London, complete the job and return to Spain quickly as possible. Ian McShane is brilliant in this final segment of the film.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2001
After all the dross produced in the name of the post-Lock Stock British gangster film industry at last a good movie has been made: Jonathan Glazer's Sexy Beast. (The only other exceptions would be Gangster No.1 and Guy Ritchie's own highly Lock Stock-esque Snatch).
From the brilliant opening scene to the last Sexy Beast is littered with masterful surrealistic touches. Although Ray Winstone gives a career best performance as Gary - the retired gangster who just wants to be left alone in his utopian Mediterranean idyll, it is true Ben Kingsley somewhat steals the show. As Don he is as hilarious as he is terrifying. In a unique performance which owes nothing De Niro or Pesci or indeed anything I've seen him play before (certainly a far cry from Gandhi!) Kingsley illuminates every scene he is in as a monster of cockney menace. British TV star Ian McShane is also convincingly malevolent as the ambidextrous Teddy Bass and James Fox also shines in a fleeting appearance.
Unlike so many British directors Glazer is genuinely cinematic - using the screen to the full, particularly in the opening sequence. He is certainly a talent to watch even if Sexy Beast made less of a splash commercially than hoped.
One quibble - like Grosse Point Blank and Boston Kickout, Sexy Beast is lumbered with an inappropriate and poorly chosen name. But don't be put off - if you want a Brit gangster flick in the spirit of Get Carter or The Long Good Friday then this is for you.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Ben Kingsley is the ultimate chameleon, I mean this is the guy who won an Academy Award for Gandhi, the ultimate pacifist. Don Logan is the antithesis of the Mahatma in every way. Kingsley's character is as vicious and unrelenting as any character I can recall. Sexy Beast centers around a "retired" thief (Ray Winstone) who is "asked" out of retirement to do one last job by his old boss Don Logan (Kingsley). The majority of the running time of the film consists of Kingsley badgering, harrassing and degrading Winstone into doing the job. Kingsley's English Cockney accent is so spot on and acerbic it's as if he's spitting venom. This film has some of the best one liners to come along in some time, all from Kingsley of course, such as:
Gal: I'm happy here, Don.
Don: I won't let you be happy, why should I?
Don: You skin looks like leather...like crocodile, big fat crocodile.
Passenger on airplane: Why don't you put out the cigarette?
Don: I'll put it out, provided your prepared to let me put it out on your eyeball.
AND, OF COURSE
Gal: "I'm sorry, I'm just going to have to turn this opportunity down Don."
Don: "No, your just going to have to turn this opportunity YES!!"
Ian McShane rounds out this fantastic cast playing Teddy Bass, one of the most feared gangsters in all of England. McShane's deadpan glares are as scary as they come and he does a fantastic job as always. Overall, this is one of the best films I've seen in the past ten years. This may also be one of the most overlooked/underrated films of the past decade. Sexy Beast is an absolute must-own simply for Kingsley's chilling performance, don't think about it...BUY THIS! Highest Recommendation.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2006
Just watched Sexy Beast for about the 20th time. I saw it when it first was released on DVD because it never made it to the theaters in my area even though it was critically acclaimed. I don't think it is overstating that this movie is nearly flawless. From the musical score to the direction, the character study, the acting, everything is simply fantastic. Ben Kingsley is one of the most menacing villians to ever grace the screen and like nothing you have ever seen before. And the funny thing is Ian McShane is equally as menacing and evil as Teddy Bass in a totally different way. The story is great and the dialogue is at times hilarious but also emotional, intelligent and sometimes scarey. This is one movie I can watch over and over and with the surround sound on the musical score and soundtrack is awesome. I recommend this movie to anybody and everybody. Ray Winstone is funny as hell as Gel and is exceptional and has great range in showing all the sides of Gel as he is being the loving husband, the menaced victim of Don Logan and also as he carries thru with his task under the watchful and critical disbelieving cunning eye of Mr. Black Magic himself...Teddy Bass.