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Laramie Movie Scope:
Sexy Beast

A jittery, hyper British gangster movie

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 4, 2001 -- "Sexy Beast" is a British organized crime drama with lots of creative editing and weird dream sequences thrown in to jazz it up. In the end, however, it is just another British organized crime drama with one great performance.

The great performance is, as you may have heard, by Ben Kingsley. This time, he's no Gandhi, he's a psychopathic, foul mouthed mob henchman, and one of the worst houseguests you will ever see.

Kingsley plays Don Logan, a man who strikes fear and loathing into those who know him best. He comes to Spain to visit an old mob acquaintance, Gal (a guy, played by Ray Winstone). He wants to recruit Gal to be part of a team of gangsters who will be robbing a bank. Gal doesn't want the job. He tells Don so as nice as he possibly can. Don replies by using the "F" word about nine million times, along with a lot of other nasty-sounding words. It is hard to tell just what words, because the English accents in the film are so thick you need a very sharp knife to cut them.

Anyway, back to our story. Gal tells Don no, but Don won't take no for an answer. This goes on and on for most of the movie. Suffice it to say the argument does get settled. I won't say how, that would give away the movie's climactic scene. Don, and another gangster, Teddy Bass (Ian McShane) are the major threatening people in the film. Bass doesn't seem so threatening most of the time, but you can tell he is by the amount of fear exhibited by others. There might as well be a neon sign on his head saying "jolly dangerous fellow." Rookie director Jonathan Glazer manages to wring a lot of suspense out of the story by stringing it out forever. The movie runs only 88 minutes, but it seems a lot longer than that.

Kingsley chews up all the scenery in sight, then goes and gets more scenery and chews that up to. In the end, some scenes had to be filmed outdoors. There were no walls left. Kingsley's performance is electric, and his character, Don, is such an odd duck you don't have the faintest idea of what he'll do next. One things for sure, though. Once he comes to visit, he never leaves. He's the kind of guy who just can't take a hint, and he does really nasty things to your carpet.

It seems to take forever to get to the climactic scene between Gal and Don. When it finally comes there are some surprises. The moment of truth also gets strung out over a long period by slicing it up into little chunks of about one second each and then scattering those little chunks of climax over the last 20 minutes of the film. It is a sort of strobe scene. There is also a strange nightmare scene that is similarly scattered around the movie. It involves a sort of giant killer rabbit with a gun and a really bad hair condition. There are some very vivid colors, some very brightly lit scenes and some very rapid editing, too.

I know what you are thinking. This sounds as artistic as hell, and some critics are just going to eat this up. Well, of course they are. Critics are human too. They get tired of seeing the same old plots and cinematic devices. Just about anything different is good, including "Sexy Beast." I have to admit, I did like Kingsley's performance. It looked like he was having fun acting the part of a madman. I wished I'd had as much fun watching the rest of the film. For the most part, the film just didn't work all that well for me. The suspense didn't get to me because the characters are all pretty annoying and therefore expendable. If any of the characters was the least bit appealing, I might have had more patience waiting for something to happen. The film did keep me awake to the end, however, and the climax is satisfying in a sick kind of way. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2001 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)