A genuinely quirky film, Sexy Beast is not quite a comedy but it’s laced with potent humor. As Gal Dove (Winstone) bakes in the hot sun, relaxing poolside at his Spanish villa, a gigantic boulder tumbles down the hillside directly toward him. Though it misses flattening him (completely by chance), it lands with a floor-damaging thud in his pool. It’s indicative of another force of nature soon to visit Gal: his former boss, Don Logan (Kingsley).
Gal was a top thief but he did some prison time and now considers himself retired. He and his wife Deedee (Amanda Redman), along with their married friends Aitch (Cavan Kendall) and Jackie (Julianne White), are quietly enjoying a life of leisure. Unfortunately, Jackie takes a call from Don and relays the message that Gal is expected to participate in a high-end bank vault break-in. Before they know it, Don is on his way to pay them a visit and it soon becomes clear that he isn’t taking no for an answer.
From Kingsley’s first appearance, striding through the airport en route to Gal’s villa, we feel his imposing presence. But nothing can prepare the viewer for the sheer overpowering authority with which he commands the screen. As great an actor as Kingsley is, his tour de force turn as the sociopathic Don Logan certainly deserves to be ranked among his very finest. The details of the vault job, while quite interesting (it involves tunneling through a neighboring pool in order to flood the room), aren’t especially important. Sexy Beast is about the push-and-pull dynamic between Gal and Don. Their scenes together are mesmerizing, all the more so for how effortlessly the more diminutive Kingsley completely dominates the bearish Winstone.
The tight, 89-minute film hinges on a battle of wills between the bull-headed Don and the comparatively mild-mannered Gal. The psychological duel takes an even nastier turn when Don begins badgering Gal about Deedee’s porn-actress past. It’s also no small point that he is infatuated with Aitch’s wife, Jackie, with whom he enjoyed a brief fling (or rather partially enjoyed, as she pulled a particular move that the über-masculine Don couldn’t stomach). Though Don is consumed by self-loathing and a need to control every situation, Gal cowers before him like a child looking up at his abusive father. Regardless of how much time Gal has done, he simply can’t fully escape his past.
Curiously, the Blu-ray offers a viewing choice between 1.78:1 and 2.35:1. I’m guessing it must have been exhibited in both aspect ratios at some point. The bad news is the source print was not in particularly great shape. The opening credits are largely set against a bright, blue sky and immediately we’re bombarded by print flaws. There are specs of debris, white dots, and other anomalies (present in both aspect ratios). While not a deal breaker by any means, they provide a consistently mild distraction. Otherwise things look decent. The DTS-HD Master Audio tracks (both 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround) are much more satisfying, especially the full-bodied low end of the 5.1.
Extra features include an isolated track of Roque Baños’ score (exclusive to this Twilight Time edition) and (ported over from a previous DVD) audio commentary by Kingsley and producer Jeremy Thomas. There’s also a short vintage EPK featurette in standard definition.
Despite the flawed visual presentation, Sexy Beast is quite easy to recommend. The offbeat sense of humor and especially the remarkable performances make this an endlessly rewatchable film. For ordering info (only 3,000 copies were issued), visit Screen Archives.