Sexy Beast (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

As you all must know, there are only two types of movies made in the UK now - dotty, whimsical comedies about eccentric provincials and violent, dark comedies about London gangsters. This is type 2.

What's the oldest movie cliche in the book? I'm not sure, but I think that when Edward Muybridge projected those first flickering images in San Francisco in the 1870's, it must have involved one criminal asking another criminal to come back for "one last job".

Here we are again, 125 years later, doing it all for the 733rd time. Ray Winstone plays a retired mobster who is living the easy life in Spain, with good friends and a wife he still loves. Unfortunately for Ray, when one is a former criminal with specialized skills it is not easy to retire. Somewhere back in London, you can bet your bottom shilling that some mob boss wants to pull off the biggest job ever, and he really needs your talent.

Mr Mob Boss needs to send someone to Spain to persuade Ray to come back for that proverbial "one last job", and who does he send but Gandhi. Gandhi has his ways of persuasion, as the British found out so many years ago. First Gandhi threatens to eat nothing until Ray participates. Then Gandhi threatens to eat a burger until Ray participates. This escalates for a while until Gandhi finally threatens to eat Ray's wife unless he participates. This last threat definitely gets the Rayman's attention.


Here is a sample of the scintillating dialogue:

Gandhi: Are you doing the fucking job or aren't you?

Ray: No.

Gandhi: Yes

Ray: No

Gandhi: Yes

Ray: No

Gandhi: Yes

Ray: No

Gandhi: Yes

Ray: No

Gandhi: Yes

Ray: No, I won't

Gandhi: You will.

Ray: No, I won't

Gandhi: You will.

Ray:  I won't

Gandhi: Yes, you will.

Ray: No

Gandhi: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. You will do this fucking job.


I think at this point you guys probably think I'm kidding or exaggerating. Wrong! Just to show you, I'm going to do the next citation not by typing, but by capturing the frames with the sub-titles on. Here you go:


And therein lies the sheer genius of it! How could the academy have ignored this for best original screenplay?

Well it pretty much went on like that for a while, until the Rayman realized that Gandhi was going to keep saying "No" for another hour, so Ray and his friends shot and killed Gandhi. But in a sense, the Great Soul was right - Ray did head up to London to do the job, because he couldn't figure out how else to hide his Gandhi-killing ways to the mob. If you look at it from Mr Mob Boss's point of view, Gandhi really did the job. He was told to go to Spain and do whatever it took to bring Ray in, and by golly that's just what the l'il Mahatma did, albeit at the cost of his own life. Details, details.

Mr Big Mob Boss, played by Lovejoy, is sorta curious, however, about what happened to Gandhi, so he asks Ray two or three hundred times, and Ray lies two or three hundred times (see dialogue above, with minor alterations). Lovejoy knows Ray is lying, but he doesn't really care because he didn't really like Gandhi that much in the first place.

Then the movie moves on to the job that Ray was recruited for, which Lovejoy has supposedly been planning for six months. Now here's his master plan: there is an impregnable safety deposit vault next to a steam bath. Lovejoy decides to drill in through the steam area. There seems to be a loophole or two in his plan:


there is an orgy scene which features one woman's breasts in close-up and several more in the distance

1. He drills in from a pool. He has all his men underwater in scuba suits, drilling away at the wall of the pool, which is adjacent to the bank. Now I ask you - if you had six months to plan that heist, do you think you would have thought of draining the pool first? By leaving the water in the pool, he not only makes it impossible to work during the drilling, but all the men have to swim to the loot after the wall collapses, and he also takes the risk of short-circuiting his power supply.

2. They don't even turn off the steam during the robbery, thus assuring that they will be uncomfortable and have poor visibility.

3. After they hauled Ray in all the way from Spain, it turns out that he brought no special skills to the robbery, and that anyone could have done what he did.

4. Ray did manage to keep some earrings for himself, separate from the main pile of loot, which is just as good because Lovejoy only paid him ten quid plus his life, which Ray was completely happy with, considering the alternative. But what the hell will he do with distinctive, stolen,  diamond/ruby earrings? Will he fence them and risk implication and/or loss of his cover as a retired businessman, or will he let his wife wear them in public and thus prove he was involved in the caper?

Yup, that was some master planning all around!

87% of critics gave this a positive review. It's hard to see why. Is it a comedy? Even its staunchest defenders concede it isn't that funny. Is it a character study? Well, the characters were all one-dimensional or totally undeveloped, and you saw the dialogue above. Is it a caper film? Well, you can see from the details above that it isn't exactly Topkapi, or The Sting, or The Thomas Crown Affair, or even Ocean's 11. So what the hell is it?

I do agree with the critics that it was great fun to see Gandhi spew expletives for 25 minutes in a row, and Kingsley did bring a violent insanity to the role, but that was also tedious after the initial shock value of it wore off. I saw this film in the theater last summer, and my son had to wake me up at one point because I was snoring. And then he fell asleep about 15 minutes later! Not that it mattered. We were pretty much the only ones in the theater.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • featurette

  • full-length Kingsley commentary

  • anamorphic widescreen, 2.35 (the box says 1.85 incorrectly)

I didn't have much better luck this time with the DVD. I really had to fight with my instinct to reach for that remote.

One thing I didn't mention. There is a surrealistic sub-plot about Ray and his friends hunting rabbits (unsuccessfully) in Spain, followed by Ray's daydreams about a giant charred rabbit (a man in a burnt rabbit suit) coming back to shoot him. No comment. I think you can determine whether that represents your kind of entertainment.

The movie isn't a piece of dog-flop. The director shows a lot of style for a first-timer, and Gandhi did provide some impressive pit-bull ferocity, but the script just wasn't there.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Apollo 80/100, 2/5, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars ... did about a million dollars in the UK, and about seven million in the US.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-. Great acting on display, and a highly stylized visual sense, but one of the most boring films I've ever tried to watch. Only infinite repetition stretches this razor-thin 30 minute script to feature length.

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