109 – Sexy Beast

Gal (Ray Winstone) is a British ex-safecracker who’s living the high life in a pampered villa in Spain. The old gang he ran with back in the day wants him to pull off another job, so they send Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) from London to encourage the relaxed former bad guy. But Gal’s out of the game, y’see, and he says no. Repeatedly. Retired, he says. Done, he says. Trying to go legit, he says. Don’t they always try to go legit? And then the Big Boys want them to pull of One Last Heist, or some such nonsense? And so the old fart straps on his hoodlum scowl and gets to work. They never stay straight, these guys.

So much of the dialog in this movie is utterly incomprehensible, at least if you’re not from England. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t the British speak English? The Cockney dialects are unintelligible, at least at the beginning. I suspect that once you get used to the accents, you can pick up at least some of the words, but for my money this is a movie that should have had extensive subtitles. As a point of reference, in Snatch (2001), Brad Pitt’s character was an Irish gypsy who spoke a completely unrecognizable dialect – it was so muddled that even the other characters had no idea what he was saying! This movie’s a lot like that, only the joke’s on the audience, not the characters.

It’s violent, and it does have its twists, which are both usually good points in a movie of this genre. The movie received quite a bit of acclaim when it came out in the theaters because of Kingsley’s performance (this ain’t Ghandi, a role he perfected with an Oscar in 1982); however, I don’t see his work as fine acting – I see it as overacting. He’s hammy, not nuanced. People see a lot of energy, which Kingsley surely brings, and assume it to mean the guy’s acting up a storm. Well, chewing scenery is acting up a storm, too – just not good acting.

The rest of the cast is relatively faceless, including Amanda Redman as Gil’s ex-porn-star wife (I just wanted to use the words “porn star” in this review somewhere!). None of them stand out above the others; Kingsley only stands out on the basis of name recognition. I’m a little amazed that this received the praise it did, particularly for Kingsley himself. It’s not solid entertainment at all, and not worth the bucks to see it, although the plot does scamper along pretty well. But because of the poor enunciation (for Americans, at least), the complexities of the plot never come to light, frustrating the viewer.

Sexy Beast: 5

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