The Costa del Crime, Spain. Gary “Gal” Dove is an ex-criminal whose blissful retirement with wife Deedee is rudely interrupted by the arrival of violent gang boss Don Logan, who is here to convince Gal to come back to London for one last bank job. Something unexpected and violent happens by the pool, but Gal ends up doing the job, risking all that he holds dear.
The first of the two men who carry this handsome, brutal film aloft is debut director Jonathan Glazer, alumnus of ravishing TV ads (those surfing Guinness horses) and music (Blur, Radiohead). Tracing Ridley’s Scott’s footsteps, he brings an unfettered visual imagination to bear on what is actually a rather straight story. Accustomed to making an impact in 60 seconds, Glazer sets the theme and place immediately. A sun-baked first act almost smells of burnt flesh, while later scenes confirm Glazer as a master showman as well as a keen stylist.
The second key figure is Ben Kingsely, who won a surprise Oscar nomination for this role and finally lays Gandhi to rest with a turn so Tarantinoesque, you will believe that Ray Winstone is shit-scared of him. After the high stakes of the Spanish set-up, the final-reel heist can only be a letdown – although the robbery does take place underwater! – but Winstone is so firmly established as our hero, the emotional momentum carries it.
Perhaps we should be poncey and say Sexy Beast is not about gangsters, it’s about marriage and work. But it’s about gangsters too
The plot may be slight, and the casting of James Fox and Ian McShane smacks of kitsch, but a cracking central trio (including the redoubtable Redman) and some truly original visual flourishes more than grouts the gaps. The last great British gangster flick. For now.