Sexy and Beastly
It took a while for the sun-drenched but darkly nasty Sexy Beast (2000) to open on North American screens this day 15 years ago after its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival the previous fall, but its jolting arrival was well worth the wait. Weaving together a frenetic visual style with ferocious criminal substance, film-debuting director Jonathan Glazer (Birth, Under the Skin) starts with a familiar pretext established by screenwriters Louis Mellis and David Scinto – expatriate retired gangster forcefully sucked back into his unlawful past – and blows it wide open with a feral intensity that never lets up once a huge boulder comes crashing down into the swimming pool of a lavishly appointed Costa del Sol villa. “What makes the film an unusually satisfying genre exercise, apart from the director's youthful brio, is the gnarled authenticity of its cast,” A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times. With the amazing ensemble at hand, “Sexy Beast delivers not only sensation but also, more remarkably, feeling.” Its two lead males – the soulful, slow-burning Ray Winstone as reluctant recruit Gal Dove and the electrifyingly hot-wired Ben Kingsley as psychotic enforcer/persuader Don Logan – are the linchpins of a cast that includes Amanda Redman and Julianne White as women who won’t be pawns in a power play, Cavan Kendall as an affable comrade-at-arms, and Ian McShane and James Fox, perfectly deployed as string-pulling London crime figures. Their interplay and unquiet desperation fuel what film historian David Thomson in his invaluable Have You Seen…?: A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films calls “the phenomenon of Sexy Beast, where the violence and comedy and literally inseparable.” Of Kingsley’s explosive, Oscar®-nominated characterization, Thomson assessed, “Don is a beast, a nutter, a force beyond restraint or predictability. People are afraid of Don, of his ranting talk, his foul mouth, and his unquestioned proclivity for nastiness. This flagrant air of performance is used to offset the exceptional danger in the man, and it has the uncommon effect of making Don as hilarious as he is frightening….There are dream sequences and nightmares, and there are some reasons for thinking that pretension risks going out of control. But Sexy Beast…[has] ravishingly effective scenes and an overall air of mystery that is enchanting.” From Jeremy Thomas, the Academy Award®-winning producer of The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky, Dom Hemingway and the recent TT Blu-ray release Eureka as well as the recent theatrical release High-Rise, Sexy Beast lets you have it with both barrels(and in two director-approved aspect ratios) on a bracing Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray, available here: http://www.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/25493/SEXY-BEAST-2000/.