MoviesSexy Beast

Ben Browder, at a Farscape convention (yes, I am a huge geek), recently explained what makes a great actor:

"The doctor's coming into a room. But he's not there yet. Actor #1 says: Get the doctor! Actor #2 says: The doctor will save him! Actor #3 says: Here he comes! And we know without a doubt that the person who enters the room next is a doctor, and he hasn't spoken a single word."

Ben's point was that memorable characters are formed by interactions with other actors. Which is why it's silly to give just one person kudos for a particular part, because all the actors who interact with that character help make that actor's character believable. And therein lies the beauty of Sexy Beast.

Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) doesn't show up for the first half of the film. What we see instead are the straw lives of four other people that hurricane Don will blow to pieces. There's Gary "Gal" Dove (Ray Winstone), a big shlub with a bad tan and tight swimming trunks. He is madly in love with his attractive wife, Deedee (Amanda Redman). They seem to spend all their time hanging out by the pool, chatting about very little of substance, with another overly tanned chap named Aitch (Cavan Kendall) and his stunner of a wife Jackie (Julianne White).

Until Don shows up.

As it turns out, what we thought were just a couple of middle-class folks living the retiree life turn out to be washed up, worn out criminals and ex-porn stars. And unfortunately for Gal, his life has finally caught up with him in the form of Don.

Winstone and the rest do a fantastic job of exhibiting bone numbing, pee-in-your-pants fear. They are nearly paralyzed by the thought of Don showing up and terrified of saying no to him. Because of course Don wants poor Gal for one last job. But Gal has good reason not to want to play along; he has enough money, a beautiful wife, and he was in prison for the last nine years. His love of the sun, of the simple things, is understandable.

Doesn't matter though. Don is coming to town.

When he finally shows up, Kingsley does an excellent job of making Don as horrible as we feared. He's a psychopath of King Kong proportions; a snarling, spitting, peeing (yes, peeing) pit bull in human form that chomps on everything within reach. The rest of the film follows the job itself, a dark tale of a crime boss (Teddy "Black Magic" Bass, played by Ian McShane) who wants to break into a vault to prove he's a better man.

Sexy Beast's parallels to Donnie Darko, which came out the same year, are uncanny. Both characters begin radical when a massive object (a boulder in Sexy Beast, an airplane engine in Donnie Darko) smashes into their lives. And both characters have a deranged man-rabbit hinting at darker things to come.

Oh, I'm sorry. You didn't hear about the rabbit part? A lot of reviews seem to skip it.

Scattered throughout the film (three times, to be exact) are references to an uncredited, angry rabbit in human form. He haunts Gal's nightmares. He represents everything that Gal is and was, and could be. It's telling that the rabbit-man only appears after Gal and Aitch try and fail to shoot a rabbit at point blank range. Everything goes wrong…even the rifle falls apart. Accompanying them on their hunting trip is their hired help, a young boy who remains mute for the entire film. He's his own rabbit and it turns out he's one of the few people willing to stand up to the scary hunter.

Indeed, if there's a moral in this film, it's that God favors the meek. Sometimes it's because the strong don't think they're a threat. Sometimes it's because the meek get lucky. And sometimes, it's because the meek grab sticks and gang-beat the strong to death.

A fantastic, tightly focused film that deftly wields profanity and terrified looks with the same measured approach. The director, Jonathan Glazer, knew what he was doing when he cast Ben Kingsley. You'll never look at Gandhi the same way again.