The opening scene to British cult classic gangster film Sexy Beast (Johnathon Glazer-2000) is so brash, honest, funny and UK wit it demands respect immediately. A retired east London Gangster enjoys the sweltering Spanish sun in retirement peace. A brief fun narration sound depicts his new found freedom from his old crime lifestyle. This is sound tracked to great British punk music. The Stranglers – Peaches.
“People say don’t you miss it Gal?” – People
“What England?… Nah fucking dump, don’t make me laugh. Grimey, Grey, Sooty…every c*** shuffling around with a face worried busy” – Gal
‘Gal’ played by Ray Winstone is our main lead male character. Likeable, lovely a reformer playboy and now gentleman to one woman he has fallen epicly in love for. Ray Winstone excels at this role and we root for him as viewers to leave the London gangster life. Unfortunately as we watch him enjoy the ex pat life in sunny Spain his old associate contacts him for one last job. This sounds like a very familiar plot to any crime and punishment related film, from Police to Criminals. Here it is given a very distinct unique British East end flavour. I feel like we all know and like a ‘Gal’ and despite the obvious former wrong legal and crime caper we like him as bloke/lad so to speak. Don his former colleague is socially challenged and difficult in Gal’s personal and former life.
Although Ray Winstone is the real hero and all around admirable, sweetheart mob geezer audiences want to see win and survive this interference, it is undoubtedly the complex unstable personality of Don who enthrals viewers throughout. Ben Kingsley steals the whole film with his presence as a great actor. At this point in 2000 he would be unexpected in this particular role. Previously closely seen as ‘Ghandi’ and a prominent accountant in Nazi war time thriller ‘Schindler’s list’ this was a much welcomed and applauded surprise at his acting range. As a viewer you anticipate who OF ALL PEOPLE Gal would be afraid of and are presented with something so interesting and discussion based concerning looks and actual persona it’s a triumph casting statement.
Don’s mannerisms, crude language which are usually only used in emotional intense haste for most people is used as casual description. While being driven by a woman he knows and seems to have intense feelings hidden by confusion and anxiety.
“Fuck me….I’m sweating like a C****”
One of my favourite personal things about ‘Sexy Beast‘ as a film about London criminal life is that it maintains such a British quirky unexplained but understood sense of Brit humour…even as the horror and real crime happens. What is depicted through Johnathan Glazer is that people real or fictional are just trying to get ahead in one of the harshest metropolitan first world west cities. They make some silly decisions legally and crime wise but they still have good meaning souls. Raising the ever changing, evolving and smart question of whether there is a good fun person who does bad things to survive. How far is far enough. In this case by the end we as viewers discuss this. Gal is a nice well mannered gentleman and funny friend to many even the local Spanish house boy he employees. But he is unfortunately seeing the repercussions of his earlier lad about London town getting in trouble catching up to in his older now settled healthy and respectful Spain lifestyle.
Its a seminal piece of British cinema and remains enjoyable, comical and still has something to say about life in the city and striving for money and stability by any means necessary.
Von Von Lamunu