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click for full sized poster

Sexy Beast

Starring Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane
Screenplay by Louis Mellis and David Scinto
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
website: www.foxsearchlight.com

For more on this film, we insist you check out CrankyCritic® StarTalk with Ben Kingsley because, in our humble opinion, this film is . . .

IN SHORT: Dreadful. [Rated R for pervasive language, strong violence and some sexuality. 91 minutes]

Two couples sit by the pool at a lovely villa in what we are told is Spain. The men have East London-ish accents too thick to understand and the women are way too pretty to be with guys whose language marks them as low class hoods. Ex-hoods, in this case; nine years retired for Gary "Gal" Dove (Ray Winstone) and his wife Deedee (Amanda Redman). A similar amount of time is suggested for his buddy Aitch (Cavan Kendall) and his wife Jackie (Julianne White). We'll discover that both women were in the sex trade, Deedee in porn and Jackie working orgies, which explains the connection. Luckily, this pair of couples doesn't have much to do other than decide where to go for dinner. That leaves you plenty of time to soak in and learn to understand their accents. Do it quickly, though, for soon Aitch gets a phone call from Don Logan ( Ben Kingsley), a gangster that's still in the biz, needing Gal to do one more job. The quartet are in absolute terror at the thought of Don Logan's imminent arrival. Gal tells Deedee again and again that he absolutely retired from the game.

We know the Don is a powerful, dangerous guy because his language is littered with derivations of four letter words. Every second word starts with "f" and every fifth or so starts with "c". Even as a New Yorker we were initially taken aback at the verbal spew, but we got used to it. The interesting thing is that, even when the spew is torrential, the profanity loses its power due to the repetition. Second, it takes no acting skill to cuss a blue streak. It does take skill to find inflections that will make an audience laugh at said streak, which is Kingsley's accomplishment in this otherwise almost incomprehensible flick. We'll try to drop enough oblique hints that you won't be as baffled as we were, if you choose to see this flick

Kingsley's character is, obviously, similarly in thrall to some higher mob power. It is also obvious that his continued well-being rests on his ability to deliver Gal to London for "the job". Gal's continued insistence that he is officially retired just pushes Don over the brink, culminating in a confrontation over the actions of Gal's pool boy Enrique (Alvaro Monje). Our impression, from the first act, was that Gal didn't particularly care much about Enrique - though he did warn the boy to stay away from the house -- and there was little to clue us in on why the boy would disobey orders from the boss.

Act Three, the only watchable part of the film, is the bank robbery. Due to location, the middle aged mobsters must tunnel in through the waters of an adjacent steam bath. There is nothing to clue in uberboss Teddy Bass (Ian McShane) as to why Gal shows for the gig and Don Logan doesn't. Bass is suave and sophisticated, as far as mobsters go, and was inspired to plan this job by a random encounter with a powerful, super upper crust banker. Only the best people are allowed access to their vaults. If money is equivalent to power then that explains the banker's presence at an orgy attended by mobsters and molls -- Logan and Jackie are present, too. Bass achieves access to the impenetrable by allowing access to a body part which, we assume, had previously been unpenetrated. Again, they're at an orgy. Figure it out. Then blame director Jonathan Glazer for shooting the scene that is music video beautiful but gives no clue as to whether or not Teddy is giving or getting. There may be a clue buried in the dialog. If so, it didn't translate on its trip across the Atlantic Pond.

The visuals are lovely and, all the while, the audience knows the tension in Gal's character as Teddy keeps wanting to know where Don is.

We know. We know Gal knows what Teddy will do when he finds out. If Sexy Beast were as clear (sic) as our roundabout suggestions try to make it, it may have yielded a fairly tense conclusion. But it doesn't. What isn't clear, until it's far too late to care, is that Gal was not a lackey of Don Logan. He was a bitter rival. The bad blood runs deep and wide between the two men, as it does between Logan and Jackie (that relationship is the only clear one in the whole movie). That's an important point and, unless you know it, you won't understand the fury that erupts in the film. That's saying too much.

There is a school of thought which says that films should only show what is happening in real time; that the audience should fend for itself to figure out relationships and motivations and the like (preferably over cappuccino afterwards). Glazer films, so it seems to us, from this kind of thinking. That is not our way of thinking. The director has concentrated on a couple of visual sequences which would make you go wow!, if you saw them on the teevee screen. He positions his frame too close to the action to let the visuals convey as much information as the text, which is usually the case when small screen directors move to the big screen. With a clever reference or two in the dialog (which, again, we may have missed due to slang) we would have known more of the background of the mobster's relationships.

As it is, we don't. And nothing anywhere prepared us for nightmare dream / fantasy sequences involving a large, gun toting rabbit. The one decent gag in the movie takes place in the opening minutes and can be seen as metaphorically foreshadowing what is to come, in a "roof falling in on 'em" kind of way. We're not big on metaphors, either.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Sexy Beast, he would have paid . . .

$2.00

Pass Sexy Beast by, unless you like cappuccino.

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