I don’t want to sound like some terrorist-loving, socialist, Karl Marx butt boy because I’m bashing America, where everything is superior to anything else found anywhere in the world, but the Brits do crime movies much better than we do. This week’s example is Sexy Beast.
The story is simple: Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) wants his old running mate Gal (Ray Winstone) to leave his cushy retirement in Spain to pull one more job for Teddy Bass (Ian McShane). Gal doesn’t want to go. Don doesn’t like to take “no” for an answer, in a childish psycho prick kind of way. The tension is generated from the war of wills between Gal and Don, and Teddy’s response to how it is decided, which I won’t go into because it’s a bit of a spoiler, innit? (Damn, there I go again.)
The acting is first rate, as would be expected from the cast. Kingsley’s Don is made even creepier when he goes off on a rant because you can’t help but think in the back of your mind, “This is Gandhi!” Winstone conveys Gal’s world-weariness and desire to be left alone while still showing this is a man who can only be screwed with so far, and, retired or not, knows how to take care of himself. Ian McShane’s face now serves as the official definition of “malevolent” in online dictionaries; no one does menace better.
What distinguishes Sexy Beast from most American crime films is its willingness to let the writing and situation carry the story. The robbery itself is almost a throw-away; it’s there to bind Teddy’s response to what has transpired between Don and Gal. The ending would be an anti-climax by American standards, but when it’s over, you’ll think, “This is exactly what he would do,” and be right about everyone.
They apparently tried to get the band back together for last year’s 44 Inch Chest, but it didn’t fare nearly as well. If you saw that one—I didn’t—and think you don’t need to see another similar film by many of the same blokes, think again. Sexy Beast is a good one.