last updated: 11 July 2017 (approximate reading time: 3 minutes; 564 words)
On the face of it, Sexy Beast is a gangster movie. In truth, it’s a love story.
Sure, there are all the elements of a British gangster movie: there’s Ray Winstone playing a retired criminal living in Spain who is drawn back for one last job—a safe deposit vault heist. But dig deeper to the heart of the film and there is a love story. Gary “Gal” Dove (played by Winstone) loves his wife Deedee, and is only forced back to take the job to protect Deedee.
As an aside, for those readers who don’t know Winstone, casting him in a British gangster film is like casting John Wayne in a cowboy movie. You know the character. However, in Sexy Beast, Winstone plays against the usual expectation that are thrust upon him.
Retirement to Spain
Gal Dove is a retired criminal, his wife Deedee is a retired porn actress. Both have skeletons and both have left the UK to get some distance from those skeletons. They have found their own personal Shangri-La in southern Spain.
They now live in a secluded house with a pool, set on the side of a mountain and overlooking the sea with a view of a bay. In their terms, this is perfection and the place where they will see out their days together.
We get a hint of distant tremors when a huge rock is dislodged and rolls down the hill, just missing Gal before it lands in his swimming pool.
Enter Sir Ben
The hint of trouble is realized with the entry of Sir Ben Kingsley playing Don Logan. Logan has been sent by Teddy Bass, a “Mr Big” of the London underworld. Logan’s mission is simple: recruit Gal for the heist. Persuade him to come out of retirement.
Kingsley’s performance is the stand-out performance of the film.
Kingsley—a man known for his thoughtful performances (Gandhi, Schindler’s List)—is required to physically intimidate Winstone, a man with a reputation for playing brutes. It is a testament to both actors how convincing their performances are.
Kingsley’s Don Logan is volatile and violent—he is violent in his language and he is violent in his behavior. He has no social graces and does not adhere to any social norms, indeed, in one incident, without provocation he bursts into hosts’ bedroom and beats the husband.
If you want to see a clip of the interaction between Gal and Don—and see Kingsley and Winstone playing against type—check out the clip below. Before you click, I should warn you that the language is rather extreme in places, so don’t click the play button if you’re easily offended.
Gal Takes the Job
Gal stands firm and refuses the job offer from Don. Don leaves. Don returns. Don disappears.
I won’t spoil the movie by talking about the circumstances of Don’s return or how he then disappears, but his disappearance means that Gal’s rejection of the job offer cannot be communicated to Teddy Bass, hence Gal has little choice but to take the job. He sees it as the only way protect his new life in Spain.
So That Rock…
You’ll have to watch the movie to find how the rock in the swimming pool links to the conclusion.
Sexy Beast is a short (84 minutes) and dense movie which is well written and perfectly executed. Hire it out if you haven’t already seen it.