Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Directed by Jonathan Glazer and screenplay by Louis Mellis and David Scinto from a story by Andrew Michael Jolley, Sexy Beast is the story of a retired and reformed safe cracker who is asked to take on a job as a crime boss sends a sociopath who is willing to do whatever to get this man on board. The film is an exploration of a criminal trying to do good in his life until elements from his past returns including this man who uses words as weapons who tries to coax this safe cracker into doing the job. Starring Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Amanda Redman, James Fox, and Ben Kingsley as Don Logan. Sexy Beast is a stylish yet extremely dark film from Jonathan Glazer.
What happens when a former safe cracker is being coaxed out of his idyllic retirement by a man whose choice of weapons is his words as he scares the shit out of everyone by his presence alone? That is pretty much the premise of the film where a man named Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) is living an idyllic life in the middle of the deserts in Spain with his wife DeeDee (Amanda Redman) and some friends as it’s interrupted when he’s being asked to do a job for a crime boss in Teddy Bass (Ray Winstone) in breaking into a safe from a bank that is claimed to be impenetrable. Gal has no intentions in doing the job as Bass’ organizer Don Logan arrives to Spain to convince Gal in doing the job. Yet, Don Logan is a character that doesn’t take no for an answer as he spouts insults and all sorts of things to make those around him grovel and feel awful about themselves.
The film’s screenplay does contain a traditional narrative structure where its first 20 minute explore Gal’s idyllic life with his wife and their friends Aitch (Cavan Kendall) and Jackie (Julianne White) as Gal has definitely put his past behind. That all changes where elements of surrealism start to appear to haunt Gal in his dreams as it would set the tone for Don Logan to arrive as the words that come out of his mouth are beyond obscene. The things Logan says about various people such as Jackie and DeeDee definitely can be described as misogynistic but that is just understating it. Racial slurs and all sorts of offensive things that are said are just small potatoes for Don Logan as he really goes into the core of a person and makes it small. As much as Gal refuses to do the job, he is continuously pushed by Don Logan who will get violent if he has to and he brings fear to everyone.
Jonathan Glazer’s direction is definitely filled with style in terms of not just his compositions but also the air of surrealism and images that he creates in the film. The film opens with a sense of style into the idyllic life of Gal as he’s sunbathing nearby his pool as a boulder nearly kills him and lands on the pool. It’s among these bits of eccentricities that Glazer would infuse as he is aware that he is making a film that is largely style over substance. Yet, it is presented with such care and coolness until news that Don Logan is coming to Spain as the tone of the film changes. Glazer’s compositions are quite striking in the way he puts Don Logan into a frame where he is at the center of attention while everyone else is at the edge of the frame during this tense and first meeting in Gal’s living room. Even a scene where a drink with Don Logan as he’s all by himself and everyone else is in the kitchen just goes to show the sense of discomfort everyone has. One wrong word on Don Logan is likely to get someone killed as Glazer’s direction also uses wide shots to play into that sense of fear and tension.
The scenes set in London also has a sense of style such a montage of Don Logan explaining the job to Gal. Notably in the way it explores the gritty tone of the British crime world as it is a total contrast to the idyllic life that Gal has in Spain. Glazer’s compositions are tighter to play into that grimy world as it includes this orgy scene that Teddy Bass is in as he meets the person who owns the bank he’s going to break into. It adds to the sense of drama that would loom over Gal as he is contemplating whether to do the job or not though he’s leaning more towards the latter due to the fact that he has no desire to return to the criminal world. Even as he has to contend with a force as nihilistic and as intimidating as Don Logan who is the judge, jury, and executioner for Gal whether he likes it or not. Overall, Glazer creates a very intoxicating yet terrifying film about a man who is pushed to the edge into doing another job by one of the scariest men walking on the face of the Earth.
Cinematographer Ivan Bird does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the sunny look of the daytime scenes in Spain to the array of stylish lights for the scenes set in night as well as a more low-key yet stylish look for the scenes in London. Editors John Scott and Sam Sneade, with additional work from Louis Melllis and David Scinto, do amazing work in the editing for it sense of style from its usage of jump-cuts, montages, and slow-motion cuts to play into some of the terror that lurks in the film as well as sense of peace Gal has before Don Logan‘s arrival. Production designer Jan Houllevigue and set decorator Jane Cooke does excellent work with the look of Gal‘s Spanish villa with its swimming pool as well as some of the places in London that is the exact opposite of the serenity of Gal‘s world.
Costume designer Louise Stjernsward does wonderful work with the costumes from the stylish dresses that DeeDee and Jackie wear to the very straight-laced clothes of Don Logan who looks like he means business. Visual effects supervisor Mark Nelmes does fantastic work with the visual effects from some of the elements of fantasy that plays into Gal‘s life as well as some of the darker moments that involve Don Logan. Sound editor Jeremy Price does terrific work with the sound to play into a sense of atmosphere in how voices are heard as well as in creating the sense of unease whenever Don Logan is in the room. The film’s music by Roque Banos is superb for its low-key yet Spanish-based score while most of the music score is driven by the electronic outfit UNKLE and the British group South with its bass-driven score as the soundtrack also includes music from Wayne Marshall, the Stranglers, Dean Martin, and Henry Mancini to convey that world of British crime.
The casting by Lucy Boulting is incredible as it features a few notable small roles from Darkie Smith as Bass’ associate Stan who tells Don Logan about the assignment, Alvaro Monje as the Spanish boy Enrique who often helps Gal out in his home, Julianne White as Aitch’s wife Jackie who once had a fling with Don Logan that she regrets having as she is uneasy around him, and James Fox as the bank manager Harry who shows Teddy Bass the vault through some very devious means. Cavan Kendall is excellent as Gal’s friend Aitch who is afraid of Don Logan as he knows about his wife’s past with the man as he tries to make him comfortable only to be chewed out by Don Logan. Amanda Redman is fantastic as Gal’s wife DeeDee as a former porn actress who has also reinvented herself as she is the one person that isn’t afraid of Don Logan as everyone else as she does manage to say a few things to him and get away with it.
Ian McShane is brilliant as Teddy Bass as a crime boss who has a job to break into a bank as he asks Don Logan to recruit the best as he is just as ruthless as his recruiter. Ray Winstone is amazing as Gal Dove as a former safecracker who just wants to live a decent life with no trouble as he politely tries to decline Don Logan’s offer only to be pushed to the edge into whether he should do the job or not. Finally, there’s Ben Kingsley in a performance for the ages as Don Logan as Kingsley’s performance is without question one of the scariest ever captured on film. Kingsley toes the line between aspects of dark humor and some of the most profane and vile usage of words as well as carry a presence that will make anyone uneasy as it’s a performance that is described as the anti-Gandhi which Kingsley was famous for nearly 20 years earlier.
Sexy Beast is a phenomenal film from Jonathan Glazer that features a truly unsettling and scary performance from Ben Kingsley. Along with great performances from Ian McShane and Ray Winstone as well as a cool soundtrack and awesome technical work. It’s a film that is infused with some style as well as a sense of terror brought by a man who refuses to take no for an answer as he’s like a dog that will get very dangerous if he bites. In the end, Sexy Beast is a spectacular film from Jonathan Glazer.
Jonathan Glazer Films: (Birth) - Under the Skin
© thevoid99 2014
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Good review. Kingsley absolutely owns this movie. The rest of it is fine, but whenever he's around, the movie is hilarious and an interesting watch.
I didn't realize this was made by the director of Under The Skin. I haven't seen that one but 'stylish yet extremely dark film' seems to describe his latest film as well. I might rent it just to see Kingsley's performance.
@Dan O.-There's some definite dark humor in the moments that Kingsley is in such as the first words out of his mouth. Oh, he should've won the Oscar that year.
@ruth-I would definitely recommend this but it's a very different film in comparison to Under the Skin. Plus, get ready to be frightened by the monster that is... Don Logan.
Have to agree with the others. Kingsley is on fire in this one. Great review.
@Wendell Ottley-Kingsley is the shit in this film. Do you think he can take on the Joker, Hans Landa, and Anton Chigurh in a fight to the death?
Yes! Great review. More people need to see and talk about this film. This is one I make a point to watch at least once a year, I just think it's ingenious.
"NO! No no no no no no no NO. NO!"
@Alex Withrow-Definitely one of the scariest performances ever. In fact, when I heard whom Kingsley based his performance on years ago. Holy shit. That made it even scarier.
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