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Sexy Beast
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Length:1 Hour 29 Minutes

It's not easy these days to come up with anything new in a gangster film, but first-time director Jonathan Glazer has done just that in Sexy Beast. The basic contours of the plot are familiar: Former crook Gal (Ray Winstone), happily retired to a Spanish seaside villa with his beloved wife, ex-hooker Deedee (Amanda Redman), is bullied by Don (Ben Kingsley), a sinister cohort from his past, into committing a high-stakes heist back in their native England. The intensity of the performances and the vividness of the milieu, though, make the film bracing and fresh. Kingsley dazzles as a demonic thug so choked with rage that he's a walking time bomb. Don viciously badgers Gal and Deedee with a nonstop stream of Cockney-accented vitriol, yet he reveals, beneath his repugnant exterior, glimmers of a warped human being that make him almost as pathetic as he is horrific. In contrast, Gal is a teddy bear who has grown soft and fat on a life of sun-baked bliss; and Winstone and Redman make their characters' terror palpable as Don threatens to destroy their Spanish paradise. As riveting as Kingsley is, it is Winstone and Redman's quietly passionate performances that hold the film together. With their suntans, garish jewelry, and ostentatious dream house, Gal and Deedee look like gangster clich‚s; that their devotion to one another is so convincing and moving is among the film's refreshing surprises. Sexy Beast evokes inevitable comparisons to Guy Ritchie's heist films with its flashy, MTV-style camera work (a former music video director, Glazer makes brilliant use of the Stranglers' raunchy, irresistible punk classic "Peaches" in the film's opening scene), and when the action shifts to England, it succumbs to genre conventions. But when Glazer concentrates on his characters and the exploration of middle-aged marital love, this Beast is a beauty. Kryssa Schemmerling

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