Perfection in every way and one of the best films ever made. If I could give it 10 stars, I would
- Sexy Beast review by TB
This film is and will always be one of my top 10 of all time. Not one element isn't perfect. The performances are phenomenal. The locations beautiful. The script a work of genius. The direction inspired. The soundtrack flawless. When people talk about films transporting them to a different world, this is what they mean.
I love how it cannot be pigeonholed in a genre: it's a gangster film, but it's not a gangster film. It's a love story but it's not a love story. It's a heist movie but it's not a heist movie. The most accurate label you could give it would be thriller, but even that completely undersells it.
Whilst the premise sounds like a standard clichéd film, (retired gangster living in Spain is called upon by an old foe for one last job,) this is simply a vague outline of the plot. This is a movie where the beautiful and tranquil life that the main character has built for himself is suddenly and brutally torn apart.
Gal (Winstone) is a retired safe cracker who has left the London gangster scene, where he was a minor celebrity, and moved to Spain, leaving behind the life that landed him in prison and in the end threatened to destroy him. He is married to DeeDee (Redman,) an ex porn star, and the love they have is the central bedrock of the film. You totally believe the deep and passionate connection they have, which makes the later events that much more powerful. They are joined by life-long friends Jackie and Aitch (White & Kendall) in this idyllic life, which is then shattered…
Don Logan (Kingsley,) from the moment he appears on screen, dominates everything. A monster in human form. A man who, in Kingsley’s own words, is “The unhappiest man in the world.” And whilst that may seem like a vague and somewhat tame description, in many ways it gets to the heart of Logan as a man. The resentment and jealousy boil out of him, as he looks at the perfect world that Gal has created, knowing that he will never have anything close to this because no-one would ever want to be with him.
And this knowledge of how people feel about him is both his power and his weakness. His ability to be able to make the people around him do what he wants is only matched by the self-hatred and miserableness of knowing those same people despise him and look forward to the day they never have to see him again. And when that is coupled with Logan’s desperation to be accepted, it combines into a melting pot of violence and anger.
The other genius of casting Sir Ben Kingsley, which this film exploits perfectly, is how to most people he was always seen as Gandhi, the polar opposite of Logan. And this was even in the mind of Ray Winstone, who in a subsequent interview remarked, “Nothing against Ben Kingsley, but I couldn’t see myself being beaten up by Gandhi!” But within 5 minutes Kingsley on screen as Logan, this previous image is totally erased.
The subsequent story and battle of wills between both Winstone and Kingsley but also the other characters, and the culmination of this in the underwater bank robbery, is perfection. In particular, the confrontation in the kitchen, as the tension reaches unbearable levels, is a masterclass in minimal staging producing maximum impact. And this was shot in one take…
To summarise, this film is a masterpiece, and I don’t use that word lightly. Over the space of 90 minutes, you are entertained, horrified, scared, disturbed and laugh out loud. In short, everything that great cinema should be, especially if you like the most creative swearing ever put on film…
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