BR: Sexy Beast (2000)

October 13, 2013 | By

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Film: Excellent/ BR Transfer: Excellent/ BR Extras: Excellent

Label: Twilight Time/ Region: All / Released: August 13, 2013

Genre: Crime / Drama

Synopsis: The peaceful, pleasurable life of an ace safe-cracker is turned upside-down when an old associate returns with an offer that cannot be refused.

Special Features: Isolated Stereo Score Track / 2001 Audio Commentary with actor Ben Kingsley and producer Jeremy Thomas / 2000 Making-of Featurette / Original Theatrical Trailer / Limited Edition of 3,000 Units / Available exclusively from Screen Archives Entertainment




Time has actually been very good to this small, concisely told story of a former felon (Ray Winstone) whose little slice of paradise in Spain is almost shredded by the visitation of a former associate (Ben Kingley) who will not take “No” for an answer.

Made with many feature film, first-timers in the direction, writing, cinematography, and art direction positions, Sexy Beast is perhaps best known for Kingsley’s brutal portrayal of human bulldog / thug Don Logan, but pretty much each actor managers to deliver valuable character bits to make this a discrete ensemble film. Kingsley and Winstone are the de facto stars, but there isn’t a single irrelevant or sidelined character.

Commercial director Jonathan Glazer gives the film a gorgeous, modern look – shots, edits, and objects often feel like camera movements through sleek architecture, including the depiction of Kinsgley’s menacing, shaven head – and playwrights Louis Mellis and David Scinto transform London argot into a special kind of profane poetry. With actual screen violence and aggression reserved until the final third, the most engrossing elements in Sexy Beast are the intertwined relationships between four people with not-so-great past lives and a bully.

Winstone is great as Gal, a fairly decent guy who just wants to enjoy his life with a devoted girlfriend, and his two best friends. The quartet from an inseparable group who never seem to tire of their time together in scalding hot Spain, and among the four the late Cavan Kendall almost steals the film with his softly played performance of an odd yet funny old crime buddy who becomes a babbling nervous wreck as soon as Don calls to say he’s coming for a visit.

More importantly, neither of the men’s girlfriends are bimbos; they too have imperfect pasts which Don brutally exploits when he doesn’t get his way, and Glazer regularly covers each actor’s reaction – verbal or silent – to show the complex dynamics of what happens when a bully returns to the school friends he used to tease.

Kingsley’s character breakdown of Don on the Blu-ray’s commentary track is simple and straightforward, and he makes a great point in singling out the fear factor that’s maintained by the other actors and Glazer’s direction.; there’s a constant portent of a violent eruption, and yet Don’s early scenes are wholly calm. It’s only when he doesn’t get a “Yes” that he ratchets up the psychological abuse, eventually getting physical when verbal and physical lunging fail to motivate Gal.

The film’s editorial structure gets very interesting in the final third, compacting details and flashbacks without creating any confusion during a heist montage. Ian McShane is terrifying as the shiny-toothed, soft-spoken kingpin Teddy who organizes the safety deposit heist that requires gal’s expertise as a safecracker, and McShane conveys the extensive skills of master manipulator with the least amount of dialogue, and highly restrained facial gestures.

More a drama about bully psychology, Sexy Beast is a rare example of transcending the standard elements of an edgy British crime thriller by focusing on hidden and implied fears without indulgent montages of mayhem, extended sadism or trendy dialogue.

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray features the same commentary and standard making-of promo featurette on Fox’ 2001 DVD, with a theatrical trailer in place of the extra trailer + TV spots on the latter disc.

More interesting for fans is the choice between watching the film in 2.35:1 – the film’s theatrical exhibition ratio – and 1.78:1, which offers more pleasing headroom. The two transfers don’t rob the disc of valuable space, and TT also included an isolated stereo track featuring Roque Banos’ quiet thematic material and the aggressive electronic music by UNKLE (which appeared on the soundtrack album with heavy dialogue).

Julie Kirgo’s liner notes provide a concise overview of why the film has rightly risen to the ranks as one of the top British crime films when the actual crime – the heist – is rather perfunctory. Kinsgley’s performance does initially seem showy, but it’s a deception; Don’s staged rage is largely under the radar, but it seethes out through incredibly blunt and cruel statements before a fist takes over.

A virtually perfect film.



© 2013 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

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