- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2001

The first feature of an award-winning recruit from British music videos and commercials, 30-year-old Jonathan Glazer, "Sexy Beast" opens with an undeniable flair for disorienting composition and emphatic slapstick: Ray Winstone, as a retired hood nicknamed Gal, is introduced in his sun-drenched, mountainside retreat near Almeria, Spain. He seems to be taking the sun in a spatially confusing posture: One cant tell if hes aligned up, down or sideways. Soon after this little sight gag is resolved, Mr. Glazer cues the biggie, which proves the high point of the movie: the sudden descent of a boulder that lands with an alarming splash in Gals swimming pool.
The potentially fatal boulder drop foreshadows Ben Kingsleys arrival as an obnoxious, ranting London thug called Don Logan, an uninvited visitor spoiling for trouble. Don makes himself an instant pestilence to Gal; Gals wife, Deedee (Amanda Redman); and their best friends, Aitch (Cavan Kendall) and Jackie (Julianne White).
Supposedly, Don is the terrifying emissary of a London crime boss named Teddy (Ian McShane), who seems to regard Gal as indispensable to an elaborate safecracking caper, depicted with great huffing and puffing in the final reel. Gal prefers to beg off, arguing very plausibly his nine years of rust and contented, sunbaked corpulence.
Don wont take no for an answer. Given his combination of obstinacy and brutality, the only solution seems self-evident and desirable long before the friends in retirement resort to it: Shut Dons foul mouth and cure his foul disposition by killing him.
In a sensible, humane scenario, that reprisal would cue a gratifying happy ending — at least in a context of thugs and bimbos and grandiose violent spectacle. For some reason, Mr. Glazer is persuaded that he can drag out this climax for starters and then obscure it, while shifting to a sustained anticlimax in another setting: that big job in London. Gal feels compelled to participate in order to play dumb about Dons disappearance.
Given the frequency and pseudobelligerent similarity of Brit-brute crime melodramas, its a wonder that any new example creates tingles along American spines. Nevertheless, to judge from the display ads, Mr. Kingsley has become a fresh critical favorite by unveiling Don as a pulp-fiction pit bull. Whether his masquerade beguiles a popular public remains to be seen. The marketplace is already a little crowded with intimidators at the moment, although theres no denying the novelty value of Ben ("Sexy Beast") Kingsley as a ringer in beastly company. Strictly speaking, the title is a misnomer, since no one in the cast of characters really answers to the description. "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" would be more to the point, or "Beastly Beastly," to reflect the plural nature of the disreputable characters.
I suppose one should reserve judgment about Mr. Glazer, who does get some clever pictorial brainstorms, from pool-crushing boulders to heart-shaped smoke rings. He may improve as a big kidder if he outgrows identifying with hard guys. Something in the spirit of Inspector Clouseau might be a better test of his skills and rapport with an audience.

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