Sexy Beast (Blu-ray Review)2 Sep, 2013 By: Mike Clark
Available via ScreenArchives.com
Rated ‘R’ for pervasive language, strong violence and some sexuality.
Stars Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Ian MacShane, Amanda Redman.
Firmly and almost immediately ensconced as one of the great British gangster movies of all time, director Jonathan Glazer’s feature debut got super reviews at the time and a much-deserved Oscar nomination for Ben Kingsley — yet, if anything, it seems to have mellowed into an even more kinetic slice of nastiness today. Sun-baked for ideal Blu-ray presentation until the narrative takes us underwater for its climax, a constant payoff never outstays its welcome at just 89 minutes. In a way, the movie reflects the professionalism of lead Ray Winstone’s safecracker by getting in, doing its job and getting out so we (and he) can all go home.
Home for the supposedly retired Winstone is the Spanish hillside — an existence approaching idyllic for a guy not all that concerned with nightlife or intellectual pursuits so long as one leaves tempted melanoma out of the equation, thanks to all the solar baking the actor’s “Gal” character likes to do at poolside. And besides, Gal and pal Aitch (Cavan Kendall in his final film) probably had to move to Spain to find a few blocks the wives they absolutely love (Amanda Redman as Deedee; Julianne White as Jackie) haven’t been around. Terminal indolence aside, the other wrinkle in the equation is the near-miss Gal experiences in one of the great movie openings of my experience, a not un-comical mishap that just avoids killing him, albeit one no spoiler should divulge. This close call is, however, also symbolic of impending doom, and boy, is it coming.
This would be in the form of Kingsley as “Don” — the kind of lowlife enforcer his mob employer (Ian MacShane) would probably just as soon not have around because the guy can’t control impulses that are almost always sociopathic or worse. Don has sexual history with Jackie (sub-category: kinky), but the ostensible reason he shows up to pollute everyone’s good time is his assignment to strong-arm Gal into coming out of retirement for a major London jewel heist for which the latter’s talents are crucial. There’s a fine group of folks running this operation; MacShane’s character (sun-baked as the rest) gets the idea for the heist while watching the goings-on at an orgy, albeit that apparently holds little interest for him.
Don, truly scary, is the kind of houseguest who a) brings up the fact that wife Deedee was formerly a porno actress (something Gal already knows and accepts); and b) urinates on what looks to be a nice bathroom carpet (damn: it isn’t even dark carpet) as an editorial comment on Gal’s polite recalcitrance over partaking in the coming heist. Eventually, Gal will come around — though not in ways that anyone would necessarily guess unless we momentarily forget that Don is so out of control that any scenario is conceivable. Glazer directs a smart Louis Mellis-David Scinto screenplay to the hilt, and this is a movie that gets maximum punch out of every bit of dialogue or reaction shot the way many of today’s best pay-cable series do. Though Glazer has been a successful director of commercials, he never capitalized on this movie’s critical success the way I thought he might at the time. His only other feature is the Nicole Kidman mega-oddball Birth, though he does have a not yet released Scarlett Johansson drama called Under the Skin that IMDb.com describes as being about an alien in Scotland. (This is apparently a filmmaker who doesn’t enjoy taking the easy way.)
Twilight Time’s presentation, robust soundtrack included, is among its best. And I was so taken by the cast that I looked up some of the supporting player histories, only to discover that actor Kendall was half-brother to Kay Kendall, the magnificently combo-ed stunner and comedienne who succumbed to leukemia at 33 in 1959. Some very interesting genetics in that family tree, don’t you think?