Sexy Beast Review

Sexy Beast is a 2000 crime drama written by Louis Mellis/David Scinto and directed by Jonathan Glazer. The film has been received generally well by critics, with an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. I'm unaware of what kind of audience the film has among consumers, but my guess would be that it has a small cult following.

Retired vault cracker "Gal" Dove (Ray Winstone) is called upon by an old friend, Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), who tries to persuade him to take a job over in London. Gal refuses, however, and most of the rest of the film is the unstable Don trying to force Gal to take the job while disrupting his quiet home life and the relations among his friends.

The film is well paced, for the most part; even though you're watching an hour and a half long movie it's so intense that half the movie goes by before you even realize that you're only in the second act.

Gal is just sort of the everyman and the audience's vessel through the story. He's fine, but isn't all that interesting. The character highlight of the film is Don, who it turns out is a violent, angry sociopath who could snap at any moment. Every time this guy's in a room you feel like everybody is immediate danger. I can't remember the last time a villain in a movie scared me, but this one did.

The screenplay is pretty good, sounding relatively natural for an ensemble cast of angry Englishmen, meaning there's a lot of swearing and British slang.

There were a couple of parts of the film that show trippy dream sequences. The first one is Gal and his wife floating over the Spanish skyline as they make love. That I can kind of understand, because his voiceover is him talking about how lucky his is to have his wife and friends and they house they live in. However, the other sequences like this in the film involve what I can only describe as the rabbit from Donnie Darko trying to kill Gal. I guess that could be symbolism of his old life coming back to get him, but I don't understand why they didn't just use a normal guy. Why use something as bizarrely specific as a black rabbit humanoid with a machine gun?

On a technical level Sexy Beast is actually kind of messy. A lot of the time the audio editing wasn't very smooth. We would be in one scene and then we'd cut to another and you could instantly hear the soundtrack changing, with no good transition to bridge the two environmental sounds. Even in certain scenes you could hear them switching to a different take's audio and it was painfully obvious and really broke the emersion.

The editing was fine for the most part, but I do remember one cut that really bothered me. As the camera was zooming in on Winstone's face it cut to a two shot of Winstone and Kingsley talking. The problem is that cut was made before the camera had completed zooming in on Winstone's face. It was a really strange cut and I don't know why they did it before they stopped zooming. Presuming it was intentional, it could've been to increase the audience's sense of unease in an already intense scene. Or it may have just been done to get the audience's attention as, once again, it was a very intense scene and perhaps the director wanted to grab our attention.

The acting is good all around, but make no mistake: this is Kingsley's show. He earned an Oscar nomination for his role as Don and he earned it. I never thought I could be so terrified by somebody who played Gandhi, but Kingsley pulls it off like a champ. He has so much pure screen presence that you feel compelled to look at him even when he's just sitting in a living room. I suppose that should speak to the acting talents of the other performers, too; the way everybody acts like this guy could blow up at any moment makes you feel a sort of second hand unease.

There's nothing remarkable about the costume or set design. It mostly looks like they just rented out an hacienda and pulled out the director's best vacation clothes for the actor's to wear.

There is one instance of interesting color usage in the film, but I feel like it was either done out of realism or lack of choice for the particular scene because the rest of the film is so devoid of color symbolism. The scene is set in a nightclub and the actors' faces are lit up in an aggressive neon red. That's it.

There was one cool part of the film that I would be remiss not to talk about. When Don is explaining how he got the heist to Gal, it cuts back and forth between him talking to Gal and Don being told the plan by they guy who hired him. The dialogue could've just been given to one person at one time, but it cuts it so that we get the whole plan from two different people, picking up where one left off. It was very interesting and a very cinematic way of relaying information that could've easily been a boring exposition dump.

Summary: If this review seems to be on the short side, it's because there isn't much to dissect when it comes to Sexy Beast; there's not a lot of symbolism or ambiguous themes, the direction doesn't really help subtly tell the story like David Fincher's does and as far as I could tell it doesn't really have anything to say. It's just a really intense drama spearheaded by a captivating Ben Kingsley performance that gives the audience a 90 minute adrenaline rush. And you know what? I don't think that's a bad thing; sometimes it's just good to get on a rollercoaster once and a while.



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