Sexy Beast (2000)

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A paced, gripping British thriller with visual flair.

At face value, ‘Sexy Beast’ may appear to be yet another pustulent addition to the bloated, adolescent British gangster genre, however it’s far from that, it’s up there with ‘The Long Good Friday’. ‘Sexy Beast’ is one of the most accomplished films I’ve seen in a while, it has no noticeable flaws. It’s a taut, paced and stylish thriller that exhibits tight narrative control, making the most of its simple yet wholly engaging premise in an effortlessly flowing non-linear fashion.

Ray Winstone was deservedly introduced to the world stage with his role as Gal, a humble Londoner who’s living the dream and has everything to lose. The plot is a simple, familiar one. Gal has found happiness in his paradisiacal Spanish villa, but his perfect life is ruptured when Don Logan, a figure from his old life, returns to make a job offer. Even before Don appears at the villa, it’s clear that it’s not an ‘offer’; it’s an obligatory matter, a grand heist that’s been tailored for Gal by the shadiest of the London underworld, he dare not turn it down. Despite Gal being a former criminal, he is a sympathetic character, the viewer can empathise with him, with his desire to leave the filth of London and be on the ‘straight and narrow’. This film was also important for Ben Kingsley, his performance as Don Logan showing that he can be both Ghandi and a foul-mouthed psychopath.

Contrary to the norm, Kingsley is the villain here, not Ray Winstone; the vicious, unpredictable Don Logan subjects Gal to mind games that quickly turn violent. Kingsley is entirely convincing in this role of aggression and violence, he is the most versatile of actors. 

The course of events is tense, sinister and unforeseeable. Not a minute of its running time is wasted; it’s a top notch crime thriller that ought to be regarded as a great of British cinema.

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