Ben Kingsley, the man who played Ghandi, Simon Weisenthal, and Moses, is almost unrecognizable as the bald, wiry London gangster in Sexy Beast (2001), a fierce yet refreshingly understated entry to the resurgence of British gangster films that began in the late 1990s.
Kingsley is Don Logan, a tensed up ball of anger with a 100 yard stare and an ego ready to blow at any moment, and he’s come to the Spanish desert to find fleshy British gangster Ray Winstone and take him back to London for one last job. He’s not taking no as an answer.
At times, Sexy Beast plays something like a stage play smartly brought to screen with flourished is cinematic spectacle. There’s the obligatory high concept heist (with dreamy underwater scenes of overweight middle aged thugs pounding through the wall of a swimming pool) and explosions of cold blooded violence, which first time director Jonathan Glazer directs with a confidence and leanness that belies the need for in-your-face shocks and showboat flourishes.
The real drama, however, occurs in the constraints of restaurants and sitting rooms, where the bounds of social behavior desperately clung to by Gal and company are cracked by the blunt directness, crude manners, and barely concealed rage of Logan. Winstone is genuinely moving as the devoted husband willing to sacrifice his soul to save his wife and Kingsley is amazing as the blunt, crude thug unleashed. The performance earned him Oscar and Screen Actors Guild nominations and numerous awards from other groups.
Ian McShane, Amanda Redman, and James Fox costar.
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Sexy Beast [Blu-ray]
Sexy Beast [DVD]
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The DVD features commentary by Ben Kingsley and producer Jeremy Thomas and a documentary featurette. The limited edition Blu-ray release from Twilight Time is long out of print.