Gal (Ray Winstone) and DeeDee (Amanda Redman) are living a quiet, tranquil life of retirement in Spain. Gal is perfectly content to lay out and bake in the sun all day. Gal is a retired thief and is not happy to hear that an old acquaintance, Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), is traveling from London to convince him to help out with a 'job'. Upon his arrival, Don turns heaven into hell. Gal and DeeDee have to deal with the problem.
"Sexy Beast", the new British film from first-time director Jonathan Glazer, is a promising debut. The director, reportedly one of the most sought after commercial directors, has a cinematic eye and composes very interesting shots. He does not fall into the trap of other former commercial-directors-turned-film-directors. He doesn't edit the film excessively. Scenes play out as they probably would in real life. He allows us to get to know the characters and to see what they are doing, gives us time to get into their skin. This is very helpful and effective. During the opening scenes, of Gal sunbathing, I could feel my skin heating up.
Glazer does fall into a trap that is very common. He composes some shots in a way calculated to make them look interesting or pretty, forcing them to appear unnatural. uy Ritchie does this a lot, but his films have the feel of a cartoon and it becomes a part of the film. Glazer does some strange things with point of view which serve to pull the viewer out of the film. We see the action from the POV of a car door as it is closed, we see the action from the POV of a revolving door in a hotel as it turns, etc. POV is a tricky thing and needs to seem as though it is actually coming from someone. In these shots, no one is at this level, so the shots appear unnatural.
Also, Glazer provides too many literal images. The audience is smart and it is more effective to leave things to the imagination. A critical plot point happens near the end of the second act. Just as it is about to happen, Glazer cuts away to a new scene in London. I was very surprised. The scene was very effective, leaving the consequences of the action, the consequences that we didn't see to my imagination. I was thinking that some very bad things happened. However, the remainder of this scene is intercut with parts of the next. I no longer needed to imagine anything as everything was portrayed for me. Not as effective.
Kingsley and Winstone are the best things about the film. Kingsley is electrifying. Everything about Don is menacing. From the moment he fist appears, we get the image of a lifelong thief, a tough guy. Then Kingsley builds upon this, creating one of the most menacing characters I have seen in a long time. Every word out of his mouth is meant to hurt and harm, to cause damage.
Winstone is just the opposite. Gal is a former gangster, and we get that immediately from his character, but he i very determined to live a new life. He has a wife, whom he obviously loves dearly, and he is very happy. Don threatens this life, but he manages to maintain his cool and stick by his guns. He has a quiet, steely resolve which proves very effective throughout the film.
"Sexy Beast" is far from a great film, but there is enough going on to keep people interested and entertained. It also makes me eagerly anticipate Glazer's next film. Perhaps he will learn from his mistakes and create something very memorable.