There’s nothing quite like a good British gangster film. From the accents, the clothes, the attitude, and the execution, nothing is sacred and everything is ventured. Sexy Beast is the hard-nosed, balls-to-the-wall film that The Score just couldn’t be. It isn’t afraid to take risks, it doesn’t talk down to its audience, and it features actors who aren’t afraid to take chances, unlike that limp heist flick that Deniro and Norton snoozed through in 2001.
Jonathon Glazer, the infamous Radiohead music video director, makes a sharp, good looking film that keeps its focus on the actors, not the settings around them. The acting, featuring knock-down drag-out performances by Ben “Ghandi” Kingsley and the ever-wonderful Ray Winstone are worth watching all by themselves.
The story concerns Gal (Winstone), an ex-crook who has settled down in Spain for a nice retirement with his former porn-star wife when Don (Kingsley) enters the picture with an offer Gal cannot refuse. That is, at least, in Don’s mind. The two spar off in brilliant scenes of tension and anxiety while trying to balance the madness of neither one willing to budge. A short accident later, and the film spurs off in a whole new direction, forcing Gal to rethink his status in life.
Sexy Beast moves at a brisk pace and the thick British accents will have you darting for the subtitles. While it’s not a flaw-free film, I found it powerful and affecting, for the acting performances alone. Glazer is smart enough not to show off in such a low-key film like this and it pays off. “Sexy Beast” is well worth your time.
VIDEO ^ Mislabeled on the package as 1.85:1, the frame is a vast 2.35:1 aspect ratio presented in clear Anamorphic Widescreen. Strange for such a new film, grain is ever-present as are scratches on this new print. Contrast is solid but edge enhancement finds its way in there as well as some loose shadow detail. While I wouldn’t call it demo material, it represents the film well and has no major flaws, apart from the nits I just picked.
AUDIO ^ In a surprising turn, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is stunning in its surround use and envelopment. The fidelity is strong and consistent, and the dialogue is never tinny nor does it break up under harsh circumstances. With such an actor-driven film you’d have never guessed that this movie would have one of the most active soundtracks I’ve heard in quite some time. The range is solid and the pans and imaging are first rate. A great job has been done here, and you’ll need all five speakers to enjoy it fully. Also included is an English Dolby Surround 2.0 track, as well as English subtitles and/or Closed Captions along with Spanish Subtitles.
EXTRAS ^ Screen-specific Commentary with producer Jeremy Thomas and actor Ben Kingsley ^ Good Lord, what a waste. These two have never heard a commentary, have no experience doing one, and are horridly bad at it. The two spend their entire time narrating or explaining why jokes are funny with virtually no behind the scenes stories or insight. While I had high expectations, especially with actor Ben Kingsley and his possible stories on his technique, what it was like to work with Winstone, or collaborating with director Glazer, none of these topics come up and it’s infuriatingly disappointing that two hours of my life went into this limp affair. Avoid at all costs.
Making-of Featurette ^ Your standard 6-minute EPK does nothing in the way of shedding light on what “Sexy Beast” is and what is going on underneath the surface of the film. While I wasn’t expecting much, what we have here is less than that with your basic main cast interviews and some surprisingly good comments from director Glazer, though he is passed over quickly and no more is heard from him. It’s a long commercial and never achieves more than the average promotional short.
Rounding out the disc are Theatrical Trailers, all in non-Anamorphic Widescreen, of The Deep End, Super Troopers, Waking Life, and the film itself. Also included is an International version of the trailer, as well as a 10-second UK TV spot. Warning, don’t watch the trailers before the film; it’s far too indulging with the plot.
OVERALL ^ Sexy Beast succeeds for one reason: Ben Kingsley. His landmark performance is electrifying and breathtaking to watch. While Winstone is no slouch, the man of the hour is Kingsley and he relishes in his too-few scenes. The accents are thick so beware, but regardless the film contains dark undertones that are daringly woven underneath the generic blanket of a heist film. The ending is stellar and the direction is solid. This is a solid buy, but be sure to skip the commentary.
OVERALL (DVD): * * * – 3 Stars ^ MOVIE: * * * * – 4 Stars ^ VIDEO: * * * – 3 Stars ^ AUDIO: * * * * ½ – 4.5 Stars ^ EXTRAS: * * – 2 Stars