Sexy Beast

on June 15, 2001 by Kevin Courrier
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   Mindless fun. Gary (Ray Winstone), a retired gangster living in Spain with his wife, Deedee (Amanda Redman), is sunning himself by his pool when a huge boulder rolls down the hill, just misses his head, and ploughs right into his swimming pool. That opening scene serves as a dark and funny omen for what follows in this stylish thriller that evokes numerous British crime dramas like "Performance" and "The Long Good Friday." The director, Jonathan Glazer, wisely platforms the actors rather than just his visual pyrotechnics.

   One day, Gary is visited by his former colleague-in-crime, Don (Ben Kingsley), who has been hired to put together a team to crack into an impregnable English bank. But Gary has lost the desire for crime, while Don just won't take no for an answer. Their showdown that leads to an unpredictable conclusion.

   It's fun watching Ben Kingsley, the man who played the saintly Gandhi, portraying such a ramrod gangster. Every second word is an obscenity. And he's so taut, with his shaved head and goatee, that if he smiled his bones would break. Kingsley plays the role as if he's on holiday. But Ray Winstone gives "Sexy Beast" what little depth it has. Gary still prides himself a solid criminal, but he knows that he's just not up to it anymore. And that wistfulness gives the role some ambiguity. Amanda Redman is also superb as Deedee. She knows how foul Don is, yet she also fears his influence. And Ian McShane turns in a scary performance as Teddy, the ringleader for the bank job, who is way past having illusions about anybody.

   "Sexy Beast" isn't anything special, but Jonathan Glazer has a playful spirit that gives the picture some bounce. Starring Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Amanda Redman and Ian McShane. Directed by Jonathan Glazer. Written by Louis Mellis and David Scinto. Produced by Jeremy Thomas. A Fox Searchlight release. Drama. Rated R for pervasive language, strong violence and some sexuality. Running time: 84 min. Opens January 2001

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