Saturday, April 2, 2011

#239. Sexy Beast (2000)

Directed By: Jonathan Glazer

Starring: Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane, Amanda Redmon

Tag line: "Sometimes It's Hard To Say No"

Trivia:  Ben Kingsley claims the character of Don Logan is largely based on his grandmother

Gal (Ray Winstone) is a former thief. Having been, for many years, an elite member of London’s criminal underbelly (which included a nine-year prison stint), he is now retired and living in a villa on the Spanish coast, where he spends his days in the company of his adoring wife, DeeDee (Amanda Redmon). Sure, a runaway boulder has just damaged his swimming pool, but Gal can’t complain. For him, life is pretty damn good. 

While out to dinner one evening with good friends Aitch (Cavan Kendall) and Jackie (Julianne White), Gal is given some disturbing news: an old acquaintance from his days in London has just called Jackie, and is coming to Spain to ask for Gal’s help with a new heist. No worries, Gal tells them. He’s retired now, and has no plans to return to his former life of crime. But that’s not the problem. The real concern lies in who it was that called, and who is coming to Spain the next day. With terror in her eyes, Jackie tells Gal that the call came from Don Logan (Sir Ben Kingsley). All at once, the table grows silent. Gal tries to shrug the news off by ordering a plate of calamari, but he is visibly nervous. Don Logan is coming to Spain to see him. 

Shit. Don Logan. 

This is a great scene from director Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast, and it works to perfection. At this point, we the audience have no idea who Don Logan is, yet judging from the faces of Gal and his companions, he’s obviously not someone you want to mess with. Still, what’s the big deal? After all, how bad can Don Logan really be? The next morning, he flies in. We meet him. We watch him interact with Gal and the others. After three minutes, our question of “how bad can it be” is answered. 

Pretty damn bad! 

Don Logan is like no film character I’ve ever seen. This is a man with no fear. None. He is arrogant, angry, sharp-tongued and violent. To borrow a quote from Denzel Washington in Training Day, King Kong ain’t got shit on Don Logan. 

Sir Ben Kingsley is a tremendous actor, one who’s played some of the cinema’s most sympathetic characters. He was wonderful as Itzhak Stern, the man who helped Oskar Schindler save over a thousand Jews from the Nazi ovens in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. In fact, Kingsley’s first major film role was the title character in Richard Attenborough’s award-winning epic, Gandhi, a man who abhorred violence. Well, with Don Logan, it seems the great actor is equally at-home playing pricks as he is playing saints. Kingsley completely disappears behind the wild, volatile eyes of Don Logan, building his character piece by piece, sneer by sneer, and insult by insult. It is truly a remarkable performance. 

When I think back on all of the movie villains I’ve hated in my life, I’m reminded of characters like Lee Marvin’s Liberty Valance in a film of the same name, Stephen Boyd’s Messala in Ben-Hur, and Ralph Fiennes’ Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List. These were detestable characters, to be sure, and now I can add Don Logan, a vile, despicable man with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. to that list.

I dare you to like anything about Don Logan.


Klaus said...

It's been some time since seeing Sexy Beast, and the only thing I do remember very well is Ben Kingsley's terrific performance! Having only known him for his good guy roles at that point, I was shocked and amazed at how easily he fit the role of Logan. I need to re-watch this one.

Dave Becker said...

@Klaus: I try to watch SEXY BEAST at least once a year. I agree with you: Kingsley is sensational, and I was as taken aback as you were at how well he plays bad. I also thought Ray Winstone and Amanda Redmon had great chemistry together.

Klaus said...

I just picked up a copy this past weekend. I'll be re-watching soon.

Dave Becker said...

@Klaus: Enjoy!