Plot: What’s it about?
Gal (Ray Winstone) has retired from the dangerous realm of organized crime, opting to settle down and take it slow for a while. He lives on a lush estate, has fine automobiles, and is married to the beautiful Deedee (Amanda Redman), but he almost lost it all in a flash, thanks to a strange turn of events. As he sunned himself one afternoon, he stood up to fan himself for a bit, when a massive boulder rolled within inches of him, crashing into the pool. This has him shaken up of course, though he is now convinced this narrow escape is all the excitement he needs, but little does he know that Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) is about to visit. Logan is a hard willed, foul mouthed gangster with real social problems, but Gal used to work with him as a safecracker, which is what Logan wants him to do one more time. The job is a high stakes one, with a large payoff if it works, but Gal insists that he is retired and plans to remain as such. Logan refuses to take no for an answer however determined to bend Gal to his will, no matter what takes. As the battle of wills continues, how far will Logan go to make Gal agree and once Logan takes aim on his personal life, will Gal still have the resolve to refuse the mission?
This movie might not have cracked mainstream theaters, but Sexy Beast is a cinematic force be to reckoned with, that’s certain. A film can sometimes be good based simply on a single performance, one which is so excellent, it raises the picture above its potential. Ben Kingsley gives a performance of that magnitude in Sexy Beast, but the rest of the elements are also very good, so that means the movie turns to be excellent in all respects. This film moves at a brisk pace, has liberal doses of very dark humor, and is punctuated by graphic language & violence, so if you don’t like your movies dark, Sexy Beast shouldn’t be on your list. I’ve seen most of the recent British crime films made out there, but few can match this one in terms of overall impact, thanks to the superior script, direction, and performances. The sheer volume of profane language might offend some viewers, but it is used with a purpose, this isn’t Kevin Smith’s brand of mindless curses, not even close. This is a dark, savage gangster picture with top notch performances, some excellent writing, and a bleak, but enjoyable sense of humor. Fox has given Sexy Beast a solid treatment here, which makes it easy to offer up a very high recommendation.
In what has to be one of my personal favorite performances of 2001, Ben Kingsley delivers on all fronts and commands the screen with merciless presence. To this point, he has been best known for his role as Ghandi, but in Sexy Beast, he takes the furthest possible path from that and inhabits cruel gangster Don Logan. I think Kingsley has had some bad luck in recent years, unable to find roles that he can shine in, but this certainly breaks that cycle, without a doubt. His persona is locked in from the start, as this bad ass, take no prisoners beast who does what he wants, when he wants, no matter what. His sense of timing is unbelievable here, as he nails every line, every look, and every movement to sheer perfection. Other films with Kingsley include Sneakers, Schindler’s List, Without a Clue, Gandhi, and Species. The cast also includes Ray Winstone (Agnes Brown, Quadrophenia), Ian McShane (The Pleasure Girls, The Fifth Musketeer), and Amanda Redman (The Blonde Bombshell, The Wedding Tackle).
Video: How does it look?
Sexy Beast is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Fox is known for excellent day & date visual transfers and Sexy Beast continues that reputation, as this treatment is terrific in every respect. This movie can get dark at times, but the black levels never drop off, so shadows look excellent and detail is high, with no exceptions. No issues with the colors either, as the hues seem bright, yet natural and remain consistent throughout. I saw no real traces of grain or print wear either, this is one great all around visual effort.
Audio: How does it sound?
I didn’t expect much from the included Dolby Digital 5.1 option here, but I was floored by how well executed the audio of the film is presented. The score is woven into the surrounds with creative means, which makes the music seem alive at times, much more than in most audio mixes, without a doubt. There is also quite a lot of subtle, but very effective presence to speak of, which adds realism and depth to the scenes. This is the kind of audio you might not notice at first, which means it has done just what it should, draw you into the picture. The dialogue is flawless in this mix also, which is good, because the accents make it tough enough to understand the chatter. This disc also includes a 2.0 surround track, as well as English and Spanish subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The main attraction here is an audio commentary with Ben Kingsley and producer Jeremy Thomas, which fell short of my expectations. The two discuss things at a brisk clip and are often on the vague side, as if we already know the stories, so it is hard to follow at times. There is some good information here, but I wish there was better preparation and clarification involved, to be sure. This disc also includes a brief behind the scenes featurette, a television spot, and two of the film’s theatrical trailers.