“Sexy Beast” (2006) by The Nein
"Sexy Beast" (2006) by The Nein
……………………………………………… “Lanky hunk of piss, fucking pillock!”
Jonathan Glazer is an incredible film director. He’s directed various high-end commercials for high-end clients like Guiness, Nike, Volkswagen, Stella Artois and Sony. His commercials seem to cram within a minute, sweeping, majestic shots of beauty with visual effects. He’s directed some of the greatest music videos you’ve seen. Massive Attack’s ‘Karmacoma’ pays homage to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and is just as creepy. Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit’ remixes the speeds of three dancers in black, a young boy, a dog and Thom’s lazy eye. The silhouetted faces of sorrow in Nick Cave’s ‘Into My Arms’ are heart-breaking. And ever since I first saw Jamiroquai’s ‘Virtual Insanity’, I’ve always wanted to stand up and dance on the conveyor belt at the supermarket.
With all this evidence, you have a director with a keen visual eye unbarred with imagination, ready to tackle his debut film.
(I recommend the Director’s Label DVD’s that showcases his works and also other brilliant music video directors like Chris Cunningham, Spike Jonez and Michel Gondry.)
……………………………………………… “Fucking Dr White honkin' jam-rag fucking spunk-bubble!”
My mother loved BBC’s ‘Lovejoy’. He was a lovable rascal living in a small rural village in the middle of England. My mother loved his charming, naughty manner … and also the antiques he sold. The show was middle-of-the-road bullshit. But the old lady loved it.
Then came this film. Ian McShane turned that naughty, rascally behaviour that Lovejoy always had and turned it into an ice-cold, ruthless gangster. It was a surprise for me as much as it was for my mother seeing her doting hero shoot people point blank in the face. What a turnaround.
It’s from this film that McShane landed the most famous role of his career outside of Britain – the despicable and brutal Al Swearegen of HBO’s ‘Deadwood.’
……………………………………………… “Cunt! Cunt! You murdering twat!
Ray Winstone has a career of playing tough guys: ‘The Departed’; ‘Scum’; ‘Nil By Mouth’. He’s automatically the go-to-guy whenever there’s need of a tough Englishman. He plays them so well; it’s unfortunately become a satire for and of him. His cockney, foul-mouth version of Henry VIII was just over the top.
So when the producers offered Ray whether he wanted to play either Don or Gal, thankfully, he chose the latter. This was a Ray Winstone we seldom see, for Gal is weaker, softer, reserved and nicer than any of the roles he usually plays. And I’m sure Ray was just happy playing something different.
That’s not to say that Ray’s image wasn’t used subliminally in this film. We know Ray’s a tough guy, so the amount of fear that overcomes him, during that restaurant scene when he’s told Ben Kingsley’s coming, foreshadows that Ben Kingsley must be ten times tougher than Ray. It’s an ingenious casting ploy.
But having said that, how on earth could the revered and distinguished SIR Ben Kingsley take on a geezer like Ray Winstone?!
Ray told a story that, like us, he couldn’t see Ben playing such a villain. ‘It’s fucking Gandhi! Are you kidding me?!’ The story continued, especially in how life was reflecting art: The cast and crew had already met and had become well familiar with each other. The only person they were waiting on was Ben. Ben was doing another film in the States and couldn’t be released so soon. They were all waiting on Ben. Ray still couldn't get the image of Gandhi outta his head. When they heard Ben was, eventually, turning up, they prepared a little party for him, to make him feel welcome.
However, Ben turned up as Don.
As he didn’t have time to rehearse, Ben delivered his performance without any input from his colleagues. He hit the ground running. And they were so stunned by the ferocity of his performance they occasionally forgot their lines much out of fear. Ray took back any doubt he had of Ben's acting abilities.
Talk about ruining a party.
……………………………………………… ““Like a crocodile, fat crocodile, fat bastard.”
There’s an old writing trick whereby you talk about a character before they enter. This gives the audience a loaded idea of what they’re dealing with as soon as the character enters. It picks up the tension. Quentin Tarintino did this in ‘Reservoir Dogs’. Mr Pink and Mr White are talking about how crazy Mr Blonde was shooting people patiently and calmly at the bank. Thus, when Mr Blonde enters, you’ve already presupposed the fact that the guy currently on the screen is a straight-up maniacal psycho. The same trick was used here.
When I was watching that restaurant scene, I understood that the dread befalling the characters’ faces presaged that the fulla flying in from England will be the most horrible person you can imagine. What I didn’t envision was that Ben Kingsley would knock it out of the ball park and present a horrible person far worse than I could ever imagine.
This is not Gandhi.
Don Logan is a vile, slimy, extremely unpleasant, ‘well-Ard’, intimidating, manipulative sociopath of the highest calibre. He fires off saliva-drenched swearwords like a Tommy Gun. He’s violently vicious one second and then sadistically endearing the next. No one likes talking to him. He despises Spain and anything that represents having a good time. His presence hangs over festivities like a pall, draining any life from them. He will stare you down longer. He literally will not take No for an answer. He will go down as the one of the greatest film villains of all time.
With all great villains, there has to be reasoning behind him. He has created an ego for himself that is so selfish, it is void of any true human social skills. That’s why he talks to himself in the mirror – the one person he can open himself up to. He is alone. He finds it difficult that Gal is happy in retirement and he finds it difficult to express his love for Jackie. For him, he would rather take them all down into a pit of shit, rather than unveil himself or dent his image.
And it’s with that, that I somewhat view Don Logan sympathetically. Even when shot down with a rifle; even when it takes four people to shred him to pieces; even when he’s shot down once again; he still doesn't concede defeat. What a sad, lonely robot!
……………………………………………… “You want me to cut your hands off and use it as an ashtray?”
Just a few more notes about this great film:
* The cinematography of Spain is luscious. It comes off as refreshing, glorious and expansive. Then cut to the cinematography of England, which in contrast is sooty, grey and insular. Some beautiful shots, there.
* The Electronica soundtrack by UNKLE is creeping, fuzzing and thumping – all the aural pressures you’d need for a great thriller.
* My favourite scene is definitely “I know a bloke who knows a bloke.” I’ve been a fan of similar scenes where a character is telling a story to another character, a story that’s not really essential to the plot, and the audience is edited into the said story, i.e.:
………… the commode story that Mr Orange tells.
………… the campfire story in ‘Stand By Me’.
………… the Mariachi story Steve Buscemi tells Cheech Marin in ‘Desperado’.
………… the story the Rabbi tells in ‘A Serious Man’ about the Goy’s teeth.
………… the story Jonah Hill tells in ‘Superbad’, about being addicted to drawing dicks.
Youtube them or Metacafe them, if ya can. They're all incredible scenes.
* That Rabbit Man was unbelievably disturbing. It joins the great cinematic tradition of mysterious animals as metaphors – as mysterious as the deer in ‘The Queen’; as primal as the wolf in ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ and as scary as that other Rabbit Man, the one in ‘Donnie Darko’.
* Julianne White, who played Jackie, was fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeeee!
* Looking back on great British Gangster films (‘Long Good Friday’, ‘Gangster Number One’, ‘Lock Stock…’, ‘The Hit’, ‘Get Carter’, ‘Bronson’, ‘Layer Cake’, ‘Brighton Rock’, ‘The Limey’, ‘RocknRolla’), this is definitely my favourite of the bunch.