(2002) - 20th Century Fox
by Drew Feinberg of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
89 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2:35:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio
commentary (by actor Ben Kingsley and producer Jeremy Thomas),
theatrical trailers (Sexy Beast
US & international, Super Troopers,
Waking Life and
The Deep End), television
spot, featurette, animated film-themed menu screens with sound,
scene access (20 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0),
subtitles: English and Spanish, Close Captioned
are basically two types of retired criminals in movies. The first is
Paul Newman in The Color of Money.
Sure, he's retired, but you know he's just going through the motions
with his legit job. Way down deep, he dreams of hustling again. So
when he gets slowly drawn back into that life, you're happy for him;
he's a man doing what he was born to do.
The second type is more like Al Pacino in Carlito's
Way. He is truly out of the gangster life, simply happy
to be a free man (Rehabilitated! Reassimilated! Relocated!), with
zero desire to get back into old habits. When he's forced to do "one
last job" by scuzzball Sean Penn, you wince, because you know
he's not into it all. The task fills him with dread and trepidation,
and he just wants it to be over so he can go back to being happy and
free once again. In Sexy Beast,
our hero, Gal, falls into the second category.
Gal, played to perfection by Ray Winstone, has served his time, and
is now living high on the hog. He's utterly content with having gone
soft eating calamari, lounging by his custom made lovey-dovey pool,
and living in matrimonial bliss with his ex-porn star wife Deedee in
his luxurious villa. Just from his opening sun-drenched monologue,
and his initial interactions with his wife and friends, one can't
help but to like him a lot. You can see he has none of the annoying
qualities one associates (by one, I of course mean me, class-warrior
that I am) with the rich; he's affable, totally un-self conscious
and has not a whiff of pretentiousness in him. He is fully aware
he's a lucky fella, knows he has a good thing going, and has no
aspirations for anything to change.
Alas, change is imminent. A large boulder comes within a hair of
smushing Gal, flames from grills flicker ominously, and he has
nightmares of a bizarre man-bunny blowing him away. Which is odd,
since Donnie Darko also
featured an ominous guy in a bunny suit... guess 2001 was the year
for creepy-assed man-hares. Back to Sexy
Beast, it becomes apparent that there's a storm a
brewin'. The storm's name is Don Logan (Ben Kingsley).
When talking about Don Logan, Gal's gang talks in hushed tones, as
if afraid that just uttering his name would cause him to magically
appear. He's the gangster version of Candyman.
Don Logan is easily the most intimidating badass to grace the big
screen in a few years - he'd make Joe Pesci in Goodfellas
wet his pants and go running home to his mama. Kingsley plays Logan
to perfection as pure testosterone; the thought "Hmmm... is it
appropriate to say this?" is one that obviously never enters
Don has a job for Gal, and an offer from Don is one those
Godfather-esque offers you
can't refuse. Watching Don and Gal argue about whether he's going to
do the job is not unlike watching a child argue with his mother
about really wanting a cookie, except the child is David Mamet on
speed. Ben Kingsley, as I said, is brilliant in the role, but be
forewarned, Kingsley suffers from the same ailment as Begbie in
Trainspotting. Besides being
utterly psychotic, that is. His accent is incredibly thick, and the
average Joe (myself included) might not be able to understand what
he's saying most of the time. I would strongly advise watching the
movie with subtitles until your brain can adapt to Cockney. It'll
make your viewing experience much more pleasant, trust me.
I'll keep it a secret on whether or not Gal gives in to Don's
offer, but needless to say there is a heist portion of the film.
Although pretty, this is where the film lags a bit. I was more
interested in the characters of this film, and seeing a long stretch
of movie with little dialogue was a bit of a letdown. But that's
really the only low point. Sexy Beast
is a movie that has it all: style, perfect score and soundtrack,
fantastic performances across the board, a dark sense of humor and,
oddly enough, a heart.
I'm sure people will make the obvious comparisons between newbie
director Jonathan Glazer and Guy Ritchie; both are British
filmmakers who came on the scene with a bang, are quite stylized in
their work and each has a keen sense of how to use music to enhance
the film. But where Guy Ritchie is more of a showoff, in-your-face
kind of a filmmaker, Glazer is more quietly cool. If you were to
take Ritchie and sedate him a bit, you'd come up with Glazer. With
this kind of debut, I just hope that Glazer comes up with a better
sophomore effort than Ritchie's stinky Snatch.
Presented in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen (don't believe the case
that reads 1:85:1... like Joe in Say
Anything, it lies), the picture is virtually flawless.
The saturation is dead on and blacks are pretty darn black. It truly
is a sight to see. Sound-wise, you've got Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0,
and of course, the 5.1 track is the way to go. The dialogue is
clear, the mix is expansive, and it uses the surrounds more
aggressively than you'd expect from a small British gangster film.
Since I enjoyed the movie so much, I was quite enthused at the
notion of listening to the scene-specific commentary. This
enthusiasm was pretty much crushed by the fifteen-minute mark. First
off, what the heck were they thinking featuring producer Jeremy
Thomas on the track? He's drier, less interesting and more
flavorless than a month old Triscuit found between the sofa
cushions. Kingsley, love him as I do, was more interesting and
charismatic, but he was also a tad on the bland side. Both of them
had monotone voices that led me to suspect they were under heavy
sedation, and there were too many stretches where neither of them
would say a word. Kingsley at least had some thoughtful things to
say about his character, whereas Thomas would say such fascinating
tidbits such as, "There was a lot of, um, discussion about the
color of the pee, and how it would, uh, react with the film stock,
and I think, you know, to get the right color." If I wanted to
hear tedious people discussing pee color at length, I'd watch a home
pregnancy test comparison on Oxygen,
thank you very much.
The other extras fared better, thankfully. The animated menus
perfectly emulate the vibe of the movie, opening with a visual and
audio loop of Gal contentedly babbling while sunbathing. Try not to
have it on in the background while on the phone with your Aunt
Frieda though, Ray Winstone's ecstatic ramblings would be sure to
raise an eyebrow. Anyway, the menus are quite pleasant to look at,
and there's a cute gunshot/broken glass effect when selecting a menu
Included are two Sexy Beast
trailers, domestic and international. The domestic is the better of
the two, although it is full screen, and is much darker and catchier
than its international counterpart. You have to love the catchphrase
"Because Don doesn't do no." Talk about an understatement.
The international version, which is widescreen, is very washed-out
looking, and really doesn't motivate the viewer to run out and see
it like the US version does. Then there's a 10 second television
spot (not much you can do in 10 seconds), to round things out. Also
included are three widescreen trailers for The
Deep End, Waking Life
and Super Troopers. Gee, does
one of those titles stick out like a sore thumb, or is it just me?
Last up is a small featurette than runs about seven minutes long.
It's your typical featurette; snips of the trailer interspersed with
small clips of the people involved talking about the characters and
locale and whatnot. It piqued my interest, and it would have been
lovely if it were a full-fledged documentary. But of course, it's
the nature of the beast for featurettes to only tease and leave you
unsatisfied. Not unlike Polly Perkins, who dumped me in 8th grade
and wound up rounding 2nd with the president of the Latin club.
All in all, Sexy Beast is a
title that seems to be getting credit solely for Ben Kingsley's
performance, but in truth, Ray Winstone holds his own against
Kingsley, and the film wouldn't work if he didn't. The entire film
is excellent throughout. Sexy Beast
is easily in my top 10 of 2001, and there's a good chance it'll make
yours too - unless you have some sort of man-hare phobia.