Friday, December 31, 2010

Review: Ben Kingsley a Beast in "Sexy Beast" (Happy B'day, Ben Kingsley)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 22 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux

Sexy Beast (2000)
U.S. Opening date: June 15, 2001
Running time: 89 minute (1 hour, 29 minutes)
MPAA – R for pervasive language, strong violence, and some sexuality
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Glazer
WRITERS: Louis Mellis and David Scinto; from a story by Andrew Michael Jolley
PRODUCER: Jeremy Thomas
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Ivan Bird with Dan Landin
EDITORS: John Scott and Sam Sneade
Academy Award nominee

CRIME/DRAMA with elements of comedy

Starring: Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane, Amanda Redman, James Fox, Cavan Kendall, and Julianne White

Gal (Ray Winstone) is a retired safecracker living in Spain with his wife, Deedee (Amanda Redman). Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), an old London acquaintance, comes calling to recruit Gal into a gang of hoods to pull off a major heist for a big time gangster, Teddy Bass (Ian McShane). Gal wants to say “no,” but Don isn’t likely to take “no” for an answer. When Don and his quirky personality arrive at Gal’s Spanish villa, all bloody hell ensues.

Helmed by first time director Jonathan Glazer, Sexy Beast is a brutal British crime comedy/drama similar in vein to Guy Ritchie’s Snatch. Unlike the ensemble Snatch, Beast’s focus is primarily on Gal, his dilemma and Don Logan’s startling personality. Until the actual heist begins, the tension focuses on the possibility of Logan turning violent and weird on Gal when Gal refuses to join the crew Logan is recruiting for Bass.

Ray Winstone is very convincing as Gal, grown lazy, soft, and complacent in his retirement; so comfortable is he that Gal nearly goes to pieces when informed that Don is reentering his world. You can taste Gal’s turmoil and fear; he really doesn’t want any part of his old life. The film’s focus is really the tightrope upon which he walks from beginning to end, and he sells the audience his troubles, his fear, and his anxiety.

Tension and dilemmas aside, the best reason to watch this film is Ben Kingsley. Don Logan is one of those roles in which a talented actor can chew up the screen, but Kingsley doesn’t just chew scenery; he owns this movie. Don is actually royalty, the king of man-to-man talks, the invading conqueror of any situation. He talks so fast in some kind of cockney that you can barely understand what he says, but you get the gist of what he saying - trouble. Don means to get his way. Kingsley is a subtle show off in this part; he’s natural and smooth. His performance is unobtrusive, and his Don is indeed kind of sexy.

Sexy Beast is a slightly dressed meat and potatoes movie – nothing special at all except if anything British appeals to you because a British hood flick is better than an American gangster movie, of course. Sexy Beast can’t touch Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction. It’s a quiet, but frantic look at a man’s dilemma with some gangster hoo-hah thrown in. The unequivocal delight here is Ben Kingsley. This one of those great performances you read about in film texts that you should really see.

6 of 10

2002 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Ben Kingsley)

2001 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination “Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film” (Jeremy Thomas and Jonathan Glazer)

2002 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Ben Kingsley)


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