It hasn't been a great day for Brit ex-pat/ex-safecracker Gal Dove. Sweltering in his resplendent Spain retirement hacienda, he's almost roasted by the sun, then nearly drowned in his pool when a Raiders of the Lost Ark-esque rolling boulder almost pulverizes him. And it's not even noon yet.
But this is just the preamble. Things are about to get really bad...in that unpleasant human condition way.
This little teaser introduces us to a series of exchanges, confrontations and general degeneration that comprise the 2000 black comedy/thriller SEXY BEAST, now on limited Blu-Ray from Twilight Time/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment.
Gal (the likeable Ray Winstone; think of a warmer, fuzzier Ronald Fraser), who enjoys his luxurious abode with his wife – ex-porn star Dirty Deedee (a ravishing and raven-haired pre-New Tricks Amanda Redman) – and fellow ex-pat thug couple Aitch and Jackie (Cavan Kendall and Julianne White), receives an intimidating phone message from former “coworker,” violent sociopath and all-around vulgarian Dan Logan. He's going to pay them an unwanted visit – which, to quote Al Pacino from the third Corleone sequel before Godfather Pizza: the Fourth Topping, can only mean one thing: the proverbial “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in!”
In front of or behind the camera, Logan is quite simply one of the most loathsome denizens to emerge from the celluloid annals of modern cinema (and, no – we haven't forgotten Russell Crowe). His inept people skills, sexual habits and overall psycho-sadistic tendencies all take a backseat to his gutter-talk-spewing robo-choppers. So it's with great anticipation that we cautiously await Logan's arrival, startlingly realized by the over-the-top histrionics of Sir Ben Kingsley.
“I'm sweating like a cunt!,” announces the 1983 Best Actor winner for Gandhi, as he pulls up to Dove's driveway. In no time at all, he starts in on the entire quartet – bullying, threatening and verbally insulting the foursome to the point of hysteria.
Truly, Kingsley's non-stop abusive tongue is so relentless that you just can't help laughing (neither could Sir Ben, as he copped a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his pungent pronunciation). It puts Burgess Meredith's Grumpy Old Men end-credit outtakes to shame. Even I was stunned. But as with all great works of art, one is not merely to be entertained...one is to be educated. Around the time Kingsley reveals that he once shagged White but was put off by the woman’s wanting to put her finger “...up me bum!” (oh, why couldn't Richard Attenborough have included that kind of interaction with Kasturba?), things get a bit kunky (that's kinky AND funky).
And here's where the Brit hits the fan.
The caper, perhaps the most idiotic idea for a heist ever envisioned in movie crime history, is going to involve Dove's talents even if it kills him. As thickly plotted by old-school fossil James Fox (looking like a re-animated David Bowie from an excised scene of Shaun of the Dead) and reptilian gang leader Ian McShane (so dementedly deranged that it would bring tears to Oliver Reed's bloodshot eyes), Logan is to do whatever he must to ensure Gal's participation (“I won't let you be happy!”). Why that includes urinating on his carpet (never a game changer – even in Brooklyn) is beyond me, but I'm not an authority on European culture (accent on the peein').
While it's touching to see some blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments of genuine poignancy (diamond-in-the-rough Gal’s heartfelt declaration to Deedee, “I love you like a rose loves rain water.”), it's Logan's vocabulary that perpetually rules Britannia and, as indicated earlier, serves as an educational adjunct to the narrative. FYI, I never heard of the term “spunk bubble” before I heard Kingsley utter it. I immediately paused the B-D, and jotted it down – vowing to henceforth use it no less than twenty times a day (and I have!).
Shakespearean couplets aside, there's nothing more inspiriting than seeing a gaggle of fine English actors sitting around flinging epithets at each other. It's a free-for-all Union Jack-off that the Carry On gang could only dream about. Indeed, SEXY BEAST transcends being UK-approved – it's U-Kray approved.
Despite some artsy-fartsy camerawork (intermittently accompanied by Winstone's silly hallucinatory images of mutant donkey-riding machine gun-wielding hitmen), the 2.35:1 cinematography by Ivan Bird is quite nice (SEXY BEAST was lensed in Super 35, giving the director leeway to properly frame his images in either 2.35 or 1.78:1, the latter specifically framed for UK TV and home video (I, being the scope whore that I am, far prefer the former. Not to worry, Twilight Time has included both versions; toss a coin – then toss it again until you get the size you really want). I guess modern cinema must abide by these pretentious touches, so I won't chide director Jonathan Glazer (nor screenwriters Louis Mellis and David Scinto) too much. Mercifully, these unwarranted forays are brief. The soundtrack, however, allows for no such nonsense – presented in omnipresent 5.1 stereo-surround (or 2.0 if for standard systems). Believe me, nothing is more invigorating than digital potty mouth that seems to come from everywhere in the room. In addition, there's a second audio commentary featuring Kingsley and producer Jeremy Thomas, the trailer and a promotional short. And, as with all Twilight Time titles, one has an IST (Isolated Score Track) option. This not only allows access to Roque Banos (I'm not making that up) music, but the spectacular end title cut of Dean Martin magnificently crooning the best-ever rendition of Sway.
Granted, SEXY BEAST may not be for everyone – especially those easily shocked by foul language. Nevertheless if you (like me) understand that words like ‘spanking’ were destined to be paired with ‘wanking’...if you find Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis in Sweet Smell of Success as amusing as Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks...well, then – what are you waiting for?,...you spunk bubble (19 more to go)!
SEXY BEAST. Color. Letterboxed [2.35: 1 OR 1.78:1 1080p High Definition]; 5.1 OR 2.0 DTS-HD MA. SRP: $29.95.
Limited Edition of 3000 available exclusively through Screen Archive Entertainment [www.screenarchives.com].