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A Beauty of a 'Beast'

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 22, 2001


    'Sexy Beast' Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone star in "Sexy Beast." (Film Four)
From Great Britain, the great crime movies keep coming.

In "Sexy Beast," Gary "Gal" Dove (Ray Winstone), a great big slab of a cockney in a Speedo, is lying flat on his back. Beached whale flat. A sexy beast in his own mind. The Spanish sun is scorching his fish-belly skin. Retired from a career of robbing banks, and living with the woman he desperately loves, he's in paradise.

Forget England, land of the sad, the gray and the bloody miserable. Why would he want to be anywhere else?

Don Logan sees it differently. Don (Ben Kingsley), a bald, grim-jawed geezer, needs Gal for a bank job. It's going to be a grand haul and it's a sure thing, masterminded by sophisticated crime lord Teddy Bass (Ian McShane – imagine Bryan Ferry turned to a life of crime). Big money. Easy, too. Why would Gal even think twice?

Because Gal is determined to stay right where he is. It's a perfect life, with his wife, Deedee (Amanda Redman); his mate, Aitch (the late Cavan Kendall); Aitch's wife, Jackie (Julianne White); and the good-natured boy, Enrique (Alvaro Monje), who takes care of Gal's beloved swimming pool.

Unfortunately, Don, a very intimidating man, doesn't like the word "no." And Gal's state of mind isn't exactly helped by recurrent dreams of a marauding, hairy beast.

In the assured hands of director Jonathan Glazer and writers Louis Mellis and David Scinto, "Sexy Beast" is a Molotov cocktail of a movie, an engaging conflagration of British B-flick, cockney wit and gallows humor. There's even a delicate little love story in there.

It's a gas and a half to spend time with these characters – and the performers who play them. Winstone, a former boxer, is well-known in England as a heavy in such TV series as "Fox" and movies such as "Nil by Mouth" and "Scum." As the soft-spoken Gal, he plays wonderfully against type as a sweet pushover who finally stands his ground.

Kingsley, such a magnificent actor, makes it his personal business to be the nastiest villain in recent memory. He's disconcertingly successful, whether he's angrily reacting to the Spanish plane crew that makes the mistake of asking him to put out his cigarette or intimidating the hell out of Gal and his friends.

"I won't let you be happy – why should I?" he says to Gal. Don Logan's declaration is the chilly utterance of a willful, psychotic child. And putting a stop to him is going to take everything Gal's got.

"Sexy Beast" (R, 88 minutes) – Contains violence, profanity, sexual situations and English. At the Loews Cineplex Dupont Circle and Shirlington 7.


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