PRETTY SLEAZY 

For a devilishly good time, try Sexy Beast.

Swank, this summer, just got a little swanker with the release of the Brit ganglander Sexy Beast. Schizophrenically set in the gloomy streets of London and a posh hillside villa on the sun-soaked coast of Spain, this debut from Jonathan Glazer is a devilishly naughty ride into the shady other-lives of a couple of ex-cons who get involved in a one-more-for-old-time's-sake sure thing. The slightly pudgy, sharply dressing, and eminently lovable Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) is living the life of Riley with his former porn-star wife Deedee (Amanda Redman) on a Spanish coast magnificently captured by cinematographer Ian Bird. In luxury's lap, they and their friends (and eternal guests) Aitch and Jackie fashion quite a hot and steamy poolside foursome. Their collective dreamlives among desert lounge-rat exotica include martinis endlessly trickling, the sun beating them into submissive bliss, and a requisite fetching, native pool boy, as they gleefully achieve the purest form of hedonism that exists: escaping the sordid past. Theirs is a Shangri-la with fresh paella. When the phone rings with Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) on the other end, paradise is abruptly lost. The mood is further soured when 'Malky' Logan shows up uninvited with an offer Gal can't refuse which involves an impregnable bank and a trip back to the dismal toilet of England. All bloody hell breaks loose when Logan will not accept no for an answer from his former partner and wildly vents his fury on anyone within striking range of his tweaked, on the verge of boiling-over aura. As a foul-mouthed, terribly dressed, tattoo-sporting, mean-looking, cockney- accented, kick-ass Ghandi, Kingsley becomes the film. Like his maniacally focused eyes, his characterization of one obsessed with the nihilism of obsession is enthralling and creepy and will make you sink into your seat. The film's focus on his portrayal of a driven psychopath tiptoeing the borderline is the beast that overpowers a see-through plot that, in light of the actor s performance, wanes incidental. The darkness that Kingsley unleashes overpowers all else. The heist of a bank in Londontown, planned during a slow point of an orgy, is what the team of pros rounded up by Logan have set their sights on. Considering its proximity to a Turkish bath and the general improbability of the logistics, the robbery is nevertheless filmed so imaginatively that we are mesmerized and immersed in the scene of the crime. Known for his U.K. Guinness commercials and videos for Radiohead and Jamiroquai, Glazer unites a gangster tale, a love story, and a psychological Jekyll and Hyde portrait in a visual style heavily indebted to the glitz of those fast-paced genres. Peppered with vignettes that include slow-motion unreality colored in Dali light and inhabited at times by a furry, disgusting creature that we never quite get to see close-up, the story is threaded together with scenes of unadulterated strangeness. These moments seem inspired by the desolate locale, or perhaps they re mini-tributes to the surreal filmmaker Luis Bu§uel. More such reveries of the fantastic could have helped the flow of a dreamily buoyant story that opens with a silly and shocking Python-esque thrill, to say no more. Energized by a soundtrack that ranges from pulse-pounding techno, to the trip-hoppy Unkle and South, to the lounge sounds of Dean Martin and Latin flavorings of Roque Ba§os, the soundtrack pumps the visuals along. Sexy Beast sounds really good. It looks really good. It feels really good. And if it s so, so good, then it should be bad. But it isn t. The pace slows but never lets up entirely. This is largely due to the lesser of two evils, Mr. Black Magic, Teddy Bass, the big boss icily played by Ian McShane. He is as striking and collected as any recent incarnation of Beelzebub. His presence escorts Gal through the final circles of a personal hell. The anti-climactic resolution to their conflict is edgy and keeps us hanging. What s spookiest and keeps Gal sleeping with one eye open is the terror of what might happen: the ghost in the plot. Always, there s the ghoulie waiting to reappear. For its speedy 88-minute duration, the film is chaos controlled and unleashed in a nouveau-noir style: light on the distractions and heavy on action and eye candy. What makes it swing, as in any crime worth committing, is its many unpredictable turns due to inevitable eff-ups. Overlooking the superficialities of details, details, details, this beast of a movie owes a little to the Coen Brothers Blood Simple and to Tarantino in its visual nightmare a hairbreadth away from screaming reality. It really has, as reported by Sundance News, the coolest ending of the year. This film is definitely a weird immorality tale that s as sexy as the beast himself. Run to see it and worship at the evil Kingsley s altar!

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