Sexy Beast (1999 with Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley)

UK / 1999

Director: Jonathan Glazer
Writers: Louis Mellis, David Scinto

Cast: Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane, Amanda Redman, Julianne White

In his Costa del Sol villa, retired cockney gangster Gary Dove – known as Gal – (Ray Winstone) sees a boulder roll down the hill and smash into his swimming pool. It’s an omen prefiguring the arrival of Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), who threatens to upset the cosy life he has built alongside wife Dee Dee (Amanda Redman) and friends Aitch and Jackie (Cavan Kendall and Julianne White).

Logan wants Gary to do one final job – a safe-deposit box robbery – on behalf of London crimelord Teddy Bass (Ian McShane), and as Gary ponders the offer, Logan’s increasingly unstable behaviour, including an unwanted confession, disturbs everyone. When Dove decides to stay put, an incensed Logan heads for the airport. At the villa, everyone anticipates his return, knowing the next few hours will determine their future…

This devastating thriller takes its place alongside the decade’s best genre pictures, a world apart from the Mockney mayhem of wannabe Guy Ritchies. Jonathan Glazer – who made the iconic surfer/ horses commercial for Guinness – was scheduled to direct Gangster No. 1, another brutal FilmFour classic, but instead he stayed loyal to the original writers and hopped aboard their new project. From day one, his priorities were simple, claiming, “if the Jag you want turns up as a Fiat, then at least if you get the actors right, the rest doesn’t matter.”

The actors are right, but with respect to Winstone, McShane and Redman – each magnificent – they are eclipsed by Kingsley. Did he really play Gandhi? In his incandescent rage Logan is the worst kind of psycho: a natural. “He has the kind of sense of self that a Pit Bull or a Rottweiler has,” says the actor. “The sense of self that a weapon has, you know, not so much a sense of self, but a sense of function.”

Immersing himself to the extent that he can still switch Logan on when necessary, he sparks a single thought in comparison – think of Hoskins in The Long Good Friday, and double it. Fellow British veteran Jim Broadbent usurped Kingsley’s Oscar.

Other posts featuring the following