Sexy Beast (2000)

Rating: B

Dir: Jonathan Glazer
Star: Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Amanda Redman, Ian McShane

If you’ve ever wondered who’d win if Gandhi and Lovejoy had a fight, this film might supply the answer, since both Ben Kingsley and Ian McShane play against type as seriously nasty gangsters. No: make that, “blow any concept of type out of the water”. Kingsley is sent to Majorca to ensure, by any means necessary, the participation of retired and hence reluctant villain Ray Winstone in a heist organised by McShane. The two bad guys are contrasts in style – Kingsley is foul-mouthed and threatening, while McShane is cold as the grave, yet both performances are highly effective. It’s a shame their characters are kept apart by the screenplay.

For as Kingsley fades out and the scene moves to London for the crime itself, McShane moves into centre-frame – a more than adequate replacement. Winstone and wife Amanda Redman pale significantly in comparison, yet it’s perhaps no bad thing, and this has more in common with old-school British gangster movies like The Long Good Friday than anything Guy Ritchie has done. Throw in James Fox as the victim – managing to retain his dignity even in the middle of an orgy – and you certainly have one of the least likely films to find a release in Phoenix, Arizona this year.