Sexy Beast

Joe McFadden (BFI Film Academy)


Please note: this article contains spoilers

 

Sexy Beast is a 2000 British gangster film that’s a tale of obsession, romance and pure, depraved lunacy. The theme of obsession is presented in a unique way when compared to other criminal capers. Instead of a mastermind obsessing over their desire to pull off the ‘perfect crime’ such as The Usual Suspects or the preoccupations of absolute power and great wealth, displayed in The Godfather, Sexy Beast presents a more human and relatable obsession - the desire to be left alone and the conflicting obsession for power over others. Ben Kingsley’s Don Logan seems to be obsessed to the brink of insanity with strong-arming Ray Winstone’s Gal into helping him pull off those fateful words of ‘one last job’.

 

Kingsley gives an electrifying and frightening performance as he attempts to force Gal in submitting to his will. Don Logan appears single-minded and tunnel-visioned in his approach - he simply cannot comprehend the idea that Gal does not want to take the job but, instead of relenting as any sane person would, he obsesses over Gal, dictating his every action and choice of words as if he were a puppet on strings. Don Logan’s other ‘obsession’ is his need to please his master, Ian McShane’s devious mob boss Teddy. This reaches a point where Logan is merely a vicious attack dog, a beast incapable of independent thought who fixates on a singular, unattainable goal. Thus, Sexy Beast becomes a warning against obsession, it shows the audience what happens when an unachievable fixation conflicts with an equally powerful desire for peace. The film tells us to just accept things for what they are and not to obsess over what we want them to be.

 

Ben Kingsley gives an electrifying and varied performance as the psychotic sociopath Don Logan. In one scene he’s a seductive, brooding and calculating gangster but in the next he’s an electric psychopath, an enraged attack dog who seems to have no limit to what he’ll do to achieve his goals. This is contrasted with the seemingly passive Gal, who just wants out and doesn’t want to trouble himself with Logan’s world of murder, violence and savage beatings. Director Jonathan Glazer emphasises this visually by juxtaposing the imposing Winstone with the smaller Kingsley, creating an interesting dynamic where the smaller yet more vicious Kingsley appears to have the power over the larger but more passive Winstone. This power dynamic remains for the rest of the film, with both men vying for control over the actions and behaviour of the other until the confrontation reaches a tense climax where both believe themselves to be not only ideologically correct, but to also have the upper hand.

 

Wriiten by Joe McFadden for Broadway Cinema's Shots in the Dark Festival.  Joe (19) is a graduate of Broadway's BFI Film Academy


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