Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast


Whenever someone asks me to provide the showcase example of the actor’s process done as close to perfection as one can get, I direct them towards one earthquake of a performance: Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast. It takes a considerable amount of work to fully realize a character, bring them to life, make them seem genuine, lifelike and idiosyncratic so as to win over the viewer and elicit the modernized ‘putting down the iPhone to engage with full attention’ reaction’, but Kingsley’s rabid London hoodlum Don Logan is just that creation, and then some. He’s not even the lead character either, yet royally steals the film, which earned him an oscar nomination. The film itself couldn’t be more brilliant either, cooked up via a stinging, gorgeously verbose script by Louis Mellos and David Scinto, glossy wit from director Jonathan Glazer and actors who go the extra mile to give a fairly arch story some tangible depth. Ray Winstone, reliably superb, is Gal Dove, a boisterous ex criminal who has retired to sunniest Spain with his sexy wife (Amanda Redman) and best friend (Cavan Kendall). Retirement is tricky for someone with Gal’s past though, and soon his past barges through the front door in the form of Kingsley’s Logan, a terrifying bald beast of a man that would give any sensible person cause to immediately run and hide in the nearest cupboard. From the moment he shows up, heralded by bad dreams that plague Gal and a literal boulder that cascades down the hill into his villa pool uninvited (hello metaphor), things go from worse to hellish. Logan isn’t the type of man to take no for an answer, and is a complete and total nightmare to deal with even before Gal tries to shut him down. Logan wants him for a job in London, organized by shark of a mob boss Teddy Bass (Ian McShane, creepy as all hell), but Gal has no interest leaving the sunny shores and just wants the nutter out of his house. Any time Kingsley is on screen you can feel the tension crackle in the air. He’s the unvarnished hyena to Winstone’s aloof, relaxed teddy bear, a force to be reckoned with and feared. His use of profanity lands like a backhander from Dwayne Johnson, his body language is erratic enough to induce seizures and that cobra gaze could melt adamantium. He’s the penultimate antagonist and raises the stakes to the stratosphere, berating every person in sight and maintaining a cold, detached veneer that’s more than slightly disconcerting. Not to mention the fucker talks to himself in the mirror, which alone is cause for worry. While the story takes place in our world, there’s an off kilter, demonically surreal undertone that derails genre conventions. The artfully dirty, near poetic screenplay, stark visions of some sort of evil Chernobyl rabbit thing, lurid editing transitions, whatever it is it’s hard to pin down or describe, but you feel miles from your comfort zone and ever so slightly removed from our solar system while watching this odd, scary, compelling and uniquely peculiar piece of work. 

-Nate Hill

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