Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Sexy Beast

2000, United Kingdom, directed by Jonathan Glazer

Although it sometimes seems like one of those quintessentially American obsessions, gangsters have been as much of a trope in British cinema as in the US, with a particularly persistent renaissance over the past decade, mostly of the Cockney variety. Sexy Beast leaves the Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels flicks in the shade, however, with a fully realized portrait of a gangster desperate to stay retired from the game, no longer interested in either the highs or lows that come with law-breaking. Ray Winstone is in fine form, exhibiting a much softer, more nuanced side than is usually the case; his character's sincere desire for the quiet life and the love of his wife is almost heartbreaking (the film does nonetheless elide the exact nature of his past career: was he a violent criminal or the fabled 'gentleman thief'?). Into his southern Spanish idyll comes Don Logan, a sociopath with a mission to recruit him for one more job. Ben Kingsley plays Logan in an utterly atypical turn: for an actor best known for quiet force, he's adept with Logan's machine-gun speech and hair-trigger temper (not to mention borderline insanity). It's easy to get caught up in his performance, and lose sight both of Winstone's work and the fine direction, reminiscent, in its focus on the details of speech and atmosphere, of Mike Hodges's excellent Croupier.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States