Gal (Ray Winstone) is a retired bank robber living in the comfort and sunny climate of Spain with his wife Deedee (Amanda Redman) when he hears from a friend that dangerous gangster Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) is on his way to visit with a proposition for him: one last bank robbery. Gal has no intention of taking the job, so how can he persuade the determined Don without getting into deep trouble? He can't.
In the nineties and 2000s there was a whole rash of British gangster movies that came across as big screen episodes of Minder with added swearing and violence, and Sexy Beast, written by Louis Mellis and David Scinto, was one of them. Adopting the traditional "one last job" storyline, the film dresses its plot up with flashy camerawork and editing, and adds in the odd dream sequence featuring a gun-toting rabbit-man for good measure.
I say traditional, maybe I should say hackneyed. But although there's a hollow tone to the film, there's more to this than the plot; under the blazing sunshine of Spain a feeling of oppressive heat is generated, a sense of foreboding. Making middle-aged people the centre of attention generates a little depth: Winstone, as the reluctant criminal, has an ideal role as a tough, but ill-at-ease, rough diamond who has become a hard man more through circumstance than choice.
However the scene stealer is Kingsley, as the wily Don, a poisonous, unpredictable character who intimidates all those around him. Don won't take no for an answer, and as we wonder why he should take the trouble to travel all the way out to Spain to hire the out-of-shape Gal ("A monkey could do it - that's why I thought of you!"), we discover he has ulterior motives. Kingsley could have played the Don for sympathy, as he's certainly the funniest and most vivid character in the film ("I hope you crash!"), but he wisely prefers to go for menace.
By the time the heist arrives, just as we have known all along that it would, not all that much has happened that couldn't have been told in the first half hour. The action moves to rain-soaked London, and apart from a novel way of performing the crime, the story is pretty much over. Not even a suavely blank turn by Ian McShane adds much, because once we leave Spain we're back in recognisable gangster territory. Kingsley makes all this worthwhile, though. Music by Roque Banos.
Respected British director of music videos (notably for Radiohead) and advertising (notably for Guinness) who made his feature film debut with gangster movie Sexy Beast. He followed it with controversial reincarnation drama Birth and then ten years later finally got to adapt the sci-fi novel Under the Skin his way in a strange, muted work that divided audiences.