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Movie Reviews

Sexy Beast  

Cast:
Ray Winstone... ...Gary "Gal" Dove
Ben Kingsley... ...Don "Malky" Logan
Ian McShane... ...Teddy Bass
Amanda Redman... ...Deedee Dove
Cavan Kendall... ...Aitch
Julianne White... ...Jackie
Alvaro Monje... ...Enrique
James Fox... ...Harry

Directed by: Jonathan Glazer
Written by: Louis Mellis and David Scinto
Rated R for pervasive language, strong violence and some sexuality
Running Time: 1 hour, 28 minuntes

"Beast" Master
Don Logan. The name causes a tarpaulin of fearful silence to cover the dinner table where ex-con Gary "Gal" Dove (Ray Winstone), his ex-porn star wife Deedee (Amanda Redman), and their two closest friends (Cavan Kendall and Julianne White) are seated. Gal has served time in prison for crimes committed during his involvement with the British mafia. He has since retired and now lives a quiet, peaceful life on the Spanish Costa del Sol. His refreshingly lazy days consist of baking in the sun alongside his pool while his nights are spent wining and dining the love of his life. But on this night, however, a cruel twist of fate is about to be unleashed.

He is a pitbull of a man, this Don Logan ... a sadistic, salivating, psychotic serpent. His mind is a firearm constantly cocked, his body a ferocious tiger ready to strike. How does he convince someone to do his bidding? By repeatedly shouting commands that closely resemble a dog's bark: "YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!"

Logan is played by Ben Kingsley. Yep, Ben Kingsley, he who perfectly embodied the role of Gandhi and played the benevolent accountant in "Schindler's List". I'm not so much surprised that he could play a villainous character, but that he can project the man's unquestionably sadistic nature without uttering a single line of dialogue. There are some scenes that require him to unleash verbal assaults, but the more frightening moments are those where he appears ready to strike - the way he walks, sits, his facial gestures, his piercing eyes. We are hinted to his horrific persona by the reaction of Gal and his friends. It is confirmed when we see Logan briskly walk through the airport, his back upright, his arms straight and perfectly still at his sides, his eyes forward; this is a man on a mission.

He is assigned by crime boss Teddy Bass (Ian McShane) to acquire Gal's participation in another heist. The retired gangster wants nothing to do with it, but as we are told early on, Logan isn't the kind of person you refuse. Much of the movie is a simple battle of wills between Gal's insistance on maintaining his retirement and Logan's neverending barrage of verbal tirades.

"Sexy Beast" is the first feature film from Jonathan Glazer, an award-winning commercial director and former pop video auteur. He accompanies Louis Mellis and David Schinto's screenplay with a marvelous visual style, incorporating such touches as a boulder that tumbles down a mountain, just misses Gal and takes refuge at the bottom of his pool. The heist itself is also beautifully shot and masterfully edited.

Kingsley will get the most attention, but terrific performances exist across the board. Ian McShane is every bit as chilling as Kingsley's Don Logan, although not as flashy. His cold, dead eyes and mere silence are a claustrophobic cloud of doom that can choke anyone in his presence. As Gal, Ray Winstone goes a little against type, as he has portrayed bile-filled characters in movies like "The War Zone". Watch closely a scene where Gal senses danger while standing on a doorstep with the crime boss. He successfully masks his nervousness, yet his body still sways gently, as though one half of his mind is contemplating a course of action the other half knows would be futile.

Movies like Guy Ritchie's "Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch" are similar - engaging, inventive, and exciting - but they shudder in the wake of "Sexy Beast"'s intensity. I'm not completely certain, but I think the title refers to the gangster world itself, where the only thing it masters better than the art of seduction is the capacity for instilling fear.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney

Critically Ill

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