Glazer’s stylish feature debut is quite sensational—a hilariously tense showdown between a laidback Ray Winstone and a foul-mouthed Ben Kingsley, the latter hoping to recruit the former, a ‘retired’ safecracker, for a final heist.
Cast: Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane
Plot: Gal Dove, a retired safe-cracker, is living the good life on the southern Spanish Coast. One day his past appears in the form of former associate Don Logan, whose reputation as the most psychopathic gangster in the London underworld is a sign of very bad things to come.
Awards: Nom. for Best Supporting Actor (Oscars); Official Selection (Toronto)
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Ben Kingsley calls Ray Winstone a ‘fat c–t’ so many times in the film that at some point it feels like he might have legitimised crude swearing as a sexy, new religion. Kingsley plays the foul-mouthed Don, a gangster who strikes fear in everyone and never takes no for an answer.
Winstone’s Gal, sensing trouble with Don’s impending arrival from London to Spain, where Gal is enjoying his ‘retirement’, must muster up the courage to say no to taking part in a final mission—a dangerous and elaborate heist.
Under Jonathan Glazer’s hands, Sexy Beast is an invigorating film to behold—a dark comedy with moments of shocking violence and explosive outbursts.
The performances are top-tier, with the fiery Kingsley no doubt stealing the show, earning him an Oscar nomination for supporting actor. In contrast, Winstone is laidback and doesn’t want any trouble… until he is forced to act, albeit in unexpected ways.
“But quite frankly your attitude appalls me. It’s not what you’re saying. It’s all this stuff you’re not saying. Insinnuendos.”
Unpredictable yet possessing some sense of karmic inevitability, Sexy Beast is ultra-tense and deadpan funny, often at the same time, which makes it wildly entertaining.
From the opening sequence featuring Gal’s near-miss with a tumbling boulder (as hilarious a prologue setup as you can find) to one of the most unconventional heists ever planned in modern cinema, we see Glazer in full command of his visual style and storytelling rhythm, where he alternates between chaotic frenzy and unnerving stillness.
As a directorial feature debut, Sexy Beast is quite sensational; unfortunately, Glazer isn’t at all prolific, only making two more features in Birth (2004) and Under the Skin (2013), with a fourth on its way for a 2023 release.