SEXY BEAST. The illegitimate child of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie?

“Sexy Beast” is a very interesting debut. The form is already crystallized, undoubtedly aided by Glazer’s experience in creating music videos and commercials.


22 February 2024

sexy beast

“Sexy Beast” (2000) by Jonathan Glazer is a delightful curiosity and may seem like the illegitimate child of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie. The music video and commercial creator proves his incredible ability to juggle narration with his cinematic debut, and from the very first scene, he manages to draw the audience in and keep them captivated long after the screening.

This English-Spanish co-production begins idyllically. Here we have Gary “Gal” Dove (Ray Winston) sunbathing. We see it and hear his commentary, informing us of his sunburn, which, although redundant, is quite humorous. We observe a man whose physique leaves much to be desired, who at one point throws out the line: “Who could resist?” Then things get quite absurd. A boulder falls from a nearby hill, narrowly missing the protagonist by millimeters, straight into the swimming pool.

This is how Glazer invites us into a somewhat dreamlike, sometimes grotesque world, and introduces us to reality… but whose? The answer will have to wait a bit. Initially, we are observers of certain people’s lives. We get to know their habits and quirks, watch their peaceful existence, meetings, conversations.

All this tranquility is disrupted when Don visits Gal, his wife DeeDee (Amanda Redman), and their two friends. With his arrival, the idyll disappears, and the observational drama transforms into a black-humored gangster grotesque. The magnificent Ben Kingsley portrays the visitor, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for this role. He balances between two personalities: a calm, non-opposing man and a total lunatic who can lose control even during such mundane activities as shaving. This scene shows that he treats himself just like others.

sexy beast

Then there’s a moment on the plane when he’s asked to put out his cigarette, which tells us everything about him. It’s my favorite part. Ironically and with a good dose of black humor, it shows his uncompromising nature while bringing a big smile to your face. Overall, he’s a very humorous character. At one point, he tells Gal to stop swearing because he doesn’t swear, yet a few minutes later, he peppers every noun with an “F” word. The film is worth watching just for this character – he’s the best-defined and most intriguing character. Interestingly, he’s not your typical gangster; it’s hard to believe what he does for a living because he’s just not cut out for it, but thanks to the director’s style and the world he introduces us to, there’s no problem with credibility.

With his appearance, we’re bombarded with facts from the characters’ lives, each of whom, as expected, harbors dark secrets. We have an explosive mix of personalities with secrets and rich backgrounds. Gal is a calm guy enjoying the luxuries of life abroad, once a handsome gangster who could have any woman. Deedee is a former porn star, and their friend Jackie harbors feelings for Don. All the dirt comes out at the right moment. The director has an excellent sense of timing, knowing when something might become boring and drawn-out, and then throwing in some information. Thanks to this, the dialogue-heavy scenes, reminiscent of Tarantino’s, are watched with great interest.

The characters must confront their past and fears, symbolized by a creature resembling the zombie rabbit from “Donnie Darko” (2001) haunting Gal. Two more characters cause his appearance: Don instinctively torments Gary psychologically, with shouts and his firmness, while Gal looks away, resembling a high schooler bullied by older peers. Then the main character is haunted by the diabolical Teddy (Ian McShane). Escaping from the clutches of one persecutor only brings another, possibly even worse and more dangerous. All this leads to a wonderfully absurd yet exceptionally unsettling, seemingly happy ending, leaving the viewer with a cocktail of thoughts and interpretations, yet a smile on their face.

The film can be divided into four sequences based on location, emotional intensity, and form. The first is the idyllic Spanish setting, Don’s visit to Spain, the London heist (maintained in the style of a heist movie), and again the calm Spanish setting. Glazer plays with convention. The initially lazy, subjective narration gives way to dynamic editing reminiscent of Guy Ritchie films or MTV music videos, which not only doesn’t detract but adds charm and often irony to the picture until the story slows down again. This gives the impression that the story is going in circles, and between the disruption and the return to normalcy, many absurd, strange, and bad things happen. Another interesting aspect is the use of ellipses. The director interrupts one thread and jumps to the next stage of the story, only to provide an explanation in the least expected moment, juxtaposing it with drilling, to get into the bank. The creator doesn’t spell everything out directly, which enhances the pleasure of watching.

sexy beast

“Sexy Beast” is a very interesting debut. The form isn’t shaping; it’s already crystallized, undoubtedly aided by Glazer’s experience in creating music videos and commercials. The director leaves room for interpretation, but there’s nothing incomprehensible. The pastiche elements blend in perfectly, perhaps even accentuating the seriousness of the theme the creator tackles. Despite the funny situations, we’re dealing with the drama of a man trying to fight for himself, his worth, which becomes even more intriguing because of the characters trying to take it away from him. Due to the changes in the pace of narration, it might seem uneven, but I can’t wait for the next Jonathan Glazer movie screening.



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