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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 26.24%
Average: 15.6%
Pretty Bad: 4.26%
Total Crap: 10.64%

6 reviews, 105 user ratings

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Sexy Beast
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Ben Kingsley will eat your guts and ask for seconds."
4 stars

The title suggests a cheap European horror movie from the '60s, but 'Sexy Beast' is meant to signify anything that's both alluring and frightening -- a life of crime, say, or a malevolent acquaintance who knew you when.

This slight-seeming but trim and absorbing British import deepens in your head the more you chew it over later; it's about the friction of opposing personalities and lifestyles, it's about the noir theme of never escaping the past, but mainly it's about Ben Kingsley grabbing the movie in his jaws like a pit bull and gnawing till it screams.

Kingsley is Don Logan, a Cockney tough guy who wants a former associate, Gary "Gal" Dove (Ray Winstone), to come out of his sun-dappled retirement from crime (Gal lives in a Spanish villa, tanning himself by the pool) and come back for One Last Big Job. Gal is soft; Don couldn't be harder -- he's like a cross between a bullet and a penis, a baldheaded force of nature driving his will into Gal like a hammer pounding a nail into a pillow. Kingsley's East End Mephistopheles performance, which got universal raves, is a little one-note, to be sure -- but then, try to think of a memorable, iconic performance that isn't.

Gal, given subtle flesh and blood by Winstone, is comfortable where he is. He enjoys having his lazy days by the pool, his nights going out to eat with his ex-porn-star wife DeeDee (Amanda Redman), his gangster crony Aight (the late Cavan Kendall), and Aight's girlfriend Jenny (Julianne White). The movie, directed by Jonathan Glazer (a video veteran making his feature debut) from a tight script by Louis Mellis and David Scinto, wastes hardly any time on the heist itself -- an absurd underwater affair recalling Small Time Crooks -- and doesn't even bother to show us the planning for it. All of that is beside the point, and we've seen it before. What we haven't seen is the tension between Gal, who says "No" to the job, and Don, who knows what to do when he hears "no": bark until it becomes "yes."

Glazer isn't of the "Hey Look Ma, I'm a Director" camp; his cinematographer Ivan Bird gives us gorgeous wide compositions either full of primary colors or completely devoid of them. Visually, Glazer makes us understand how much Gal has to lose and why he was so glad to leave his past behind. The scenes set back in London are wet and depressing. Spain is full of sun and good music and good food; London is crawling with hard-drinking mobsters just above gutter level, among them a higher-up named Teddy (Ian McShane), who sets the plot in motion when he attends an orgy and finds out about a vulnerable bank next to a steam club.

The opening bit -- a boulder dislodges itself from a nearby hill and lands with drenching fanfare in Gal's pool -- is a bit too obvious a metaphor, but it puts us in a mood to receive the film's theme: that there are some things (a boulder, Don Logan) you can't plan for, that can dash your house of cards to ruins unless you rise to the occasion. Gal has a crane remove the boulder, but Don is not so easily extracted; he appears to be the criminal will incarnate, obscenely contemptuous of anything that does not advance the storyline in his head. He tries to chip away at Gal's wife and friends. There's a strong suggestion he resents Gal's easy life -- "Why should I let you be happy?" -- and perhaps wishes it for himself, but knows his nature won't allow it. He wants Gal back in the mud with him.

Sexy Beast gets in and out fast -- at 88 minutes, it's a model of concision in a summer of big-budget flab -- and by focusing on a small story and the few people intimately involved, it cuts to the bone far more effectively than if it were a routine thriller that centered on the heist. Every directorial flick of the wrist is there for a reason (even Gal's surreal nightmares of a gun-wielding rabbit monster), every character serves a purpose, and every Cockney-inflected obscenity (mostly issuing from Don) makes a point -- it's almost as if Gal wanted to escape the sound and language of crime, too.

Most films these days are big things that deflate afterward. Here's a small movie that expands.

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originally posted: 01/04/07 14:19:17
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User Comments

2/25/21 morris campbell not bad kingsley is great 4 stars
2/05/18 Barbara Leaf Worst Ben Kinsgley movie I have ever seen. He is wasted in this role. What a shame 1 stars
1/21/18 Todd Excellent movie. Gets better with every viewing. 5 stars
5/17/17 Louise (the real one) Hard-hitting. strong stuff - despite the lame title. 4 stars
10/13/12 kiran bc so nice 4 stars
4/05/12 mehedi Overrated, decent concept though horribly tiresome genre (gangster, haven't we seen enough) 5 stars
9/26/11 asg Try to forget Kingsley in this...try. 5 stars
3/26/10 Tony Arnold Superb film...sexey, exciting, scary and well crafted 5 stars
8/09/09 s pandy good 5 stars
11/01/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 5 stars
10/11/08 brian YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!!! 4 stars
9/25/08 parasvati great film, and (surprise!) a lovely love story-- but a very, very dark take on life-- 5 stars
8/07/08 tom palmer very very good. 5 stars
1/19/08 india good 5 stars
10/20/07 kunjesh i want to seen a sexy film 5 stars
9/24/07 Jim Zebo Great. but he didn't have to piss on the floor and why didn't someone (the kid?) kill him. 4 stars
7/26/07 parasvati full of cognitive dissonance, creepy, but really, really good 4 stars
7/12/07 Edward Shandis I'm a sexy beast!!!!!!! 5 stars
3/08/07 sammy lovely film 5 stars
1/26/07 Artist Bill had to watch again to understand....Gritty!! 4 stars
11/25/06 alan price a chilling insite to the mind of a psycho. 5 stars
10/13/06 Manni nice movie 4 stars
7/09/06 sreedhar so beautiful 1 stars
6/22/06 Jack Sommersby Good-looking but empty and derivative. 1 stars
5/31/06 stephanie willis Ben Kingsley, as you've never seen him 4 stars
12/05/05 fred definitely worth it, even if only for kingsley's explosive and rabid performance 5 stars
7/27/05 Indrid Cold The browbeating delivered by Kingsley becomes hilarious, and not in a particularly good way 3 stars
6/09/05 Bluto Ian McShane as Teddy was best, scary guy 5 stars
1/27/05 MyGreenBed Overrated, decent concept though horribly tiresome genre (gangster, haven't we seen enough) 3 stars
1/06/05 Asaad very nice 1 stars
11/19/04 brenda jones disturbing 1 stars
11/04/04 suresh sexey movies 2 stars
11/02/04 LIly's mom Superb, original, all good performances, fun 5 stars
10/03/04 Daveman Overrated, no substance beneath the style, but it's too "cool" to dismiss completely. 3 stars
8/06/04 DM Ben Kingsley kicks ass; but what happened to the rest of the movie? 3 stars
6/21/04 Dick Logan Great film, great directing, Kingsley is the bomb!! 5 stars
4/27/04 dung your best film 4 stars
3/16/04 Deanna from Indiana understated Winstone cool, Kingsley terrific. No spoon fed plots here 5 stars
3/07/04 malcolm you've got to like this movie. yes, you do. come on, then. yes-yes-yes-yes-yes-yes-yes 4 stars
2/24/04 Jonni Fantastic cinematography. Great story 5 stars
1/23/04 steve Booth Just to watch Ben Kingsley and the fear he puts into the other cast members without doing a 5 stars
1/21/04 tatum Great direction hides standard script 4 stars
12/28/03 bert bakker No story and no suspence in a wink of an eye. 2 stars
10/04/03 Alfred C. No...I think you're going to have to turn this movie YES!!...Great film...can't get enough! 5 stars
10/01/03 nick Ben Kinsley is a master chameleon. Best movie of the year for me! 5 stars
9/22/03 kill quacky the title sounds gay 4 stars
6/12/03 Logan, Don What's that cunt 5 stars
5/08/03 Alexander McDowell This filmes is the most terrifici film of Ben Kingsley 5 stars
4/20/03 Goofy Maxwell Cocksure gangster cum demonic rabbit goes off on Cockney crook wit da rocks to roll da mob. 4 stars
4/17/03 rx dx stellar performance. not an action film, but an outstanding character film. 5 stars
4/14/03 LIAM JACKSON ben kingsley rocked! he proves a point: if someone is disrespecting you,fucking batter them 5 stars
4/01/03 Dave Cliched, but stylish gangster movie that puts overrated films like Lock Stock to shame. 4 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby Overly mannered, cliche-ridden crime flick. Showy camerawork is only asset. 1 stars
2/08/03 natasha_theobald brilliant performances, amazing things to see, wit and menace 5 stars
1/29/03 spacecowboy intense 5 stars
12/27/02 RAVIKUMAR I LOVE MOVIES 2 stars
10/30/02 Bluto Teddy scared me 5 stars
9/29/02 Peter Sherlock Great no worries. 5 stars
9/18/02 Andy Hards A return to the classic British Gangster Movie, Ben Kingsley still scares me 5 stars
9/11/02 Francofile Some of the most gut-level, plausible fear ever on screen. Raw, mature performances. 4 stars
8/19/02 Mr. Hat (I'm Back!) I don't know why people were saying it was so scary. It's actually funny...on purpose! 3 stars
8/18/02 Larry O'Connor Perfect casting 5 stars
8/09/02 billywood always be good 2 stars
7/12/02 ran bad 5 stars
7/12/02 Katrina Disappointing, actually 3 stars
5/23/02 Adrian Kingsley is Scary! 5 stars
5/15/02 Peet A perfect film, beautifully written, acted, shot and directed. 5 stars
5/13/02 Caiphn I had to turn the subtitles on. What's with the rabbit? 4 stars
4/29/02 zxy ok 5 stars
4/13/02 John Watson "Phil M. Afficianado" stick to video games 4 stars
4/06/02 Dave MacDougall i couldn't understand a word...and i still liked it... 3 stars
4/02/02 Gemini Not too bad. Kingsley is great and so is Winstone. The movie worked out great. 5 stars
3/24/02 dave vousden brilliant, life like 5 stars
3/22/02 The Bomb 69 need subtitles to enjoy, not much about the caper itself but strong performances 5 stars
3/19/02 Spyguy2 Watch it on DVD and add subtitles...quirky, cool little film...Kingsley is an amazing actor 4 stars
3/18/02 john b excellent 4 stars
3/16/02 Gold Medal No Ghandi here 4 stars
3/13/02 Phil M. Afficianado very nearly total crap; dialog unintelligible and pointless flick. 2 stars
3/13/02 جنس ma_2003 3 stars
3/07/02 Ike The BEST 5 stars
2/19/02 sd good score as well 4 stars
1/21/02 BumperFish The best movie I've seen this year! 5 stars
1/05/02 Lesley I loved it. 5 stars
12/06/01 Linda Frost Excellent film.. 4 stars
11/24/01 Ellis Best film of the year 5 stars
10/25/01 Bill Gains Very good, but not as good (read: violent) as Gangster No. 1 5 stars
10/24/01 tom turley thats sexy 4 stars
9/25/01 bluebeena Interesting... hard to understand at times. 4 stars
8/29/01 Benjamin Allen Very Good, Great Camera Work 4 stars
8/28/01 Kooler extraordinary performances from Kingsley et al 5 stars
8/24/01 stan a much better than average film 4 stars
8/23/01 Kevin I wish I could get that 2 hours of my life back 1 stars
8/18/01 matthew smith kingsley adds a touch of menace that goes under your skin 4 stars
7/27/01 Reverend Krule Chilling watching kingsley at work. brilliant film 5 stars
7/20/01 skye lots of fun. original. evenifwedon'tknowwhat'sgoingon.orwhy.orbelieveit.ben's scary! 3 stars
7/15/01 malcolm Kingsley is incredible. much of dialogue is hard to understand w/heavy English accents. 4 stars
7/10/01 Ed Jepson Hypnotic 5 stars
7/05/01 Gronk U Lator Powerhouse Kingsley performance. Everything else is windowdressing. 4 stars
7/05/01 Newmarket Movie Warrior The worst piece of trash I have ever had to pay $12.50 plus tax to see! 1 stars
6/23/01 Silly Me Kingsley is awesome but the movie is awful and a waste of time. 2 stars
6/19/01 Heather Ignore the morons who have posted here, Kingsley is amazing, definitely one to look out for 5 stars
6/15/01 Denis Pedregosa Superb 5 stars
5/28/01 Vandemaele Kurt Nothing really new but Winstone is a winner and Kingsley is kingsize 4 stars
1/29/01 rubber This was the worst movie I've seen in a long time,it's nothing but a stretched out TV drama 1 stars
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  13-Jun-2001 (R)


  16-Aug-2001 (MA)

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