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Crescent Blues Book ViewsImage:three and a half moon gifCBS/Fox Video (DVD), ASIN B00005UV33
Ben Kingsley blusters and bellows but not much more in Sexy Beast. While his words boom and his toned body and Spock beard exude mortal threat in every hair and twinge, his movements never take charge of space. When yelling insults at another character, he always does it from one side or another, never looking directly into his opponent's face.

movie: the passion of joan of arcKingsley's body language fails where his voice insinuates and dominates completely. His voice says, "You pointin' a fuckin' gun at me, you piece of shit;" while his body language says, "Oh heavens, is that a Winchester rifle you are aiming at my chest cavity, you scalliwag?" DeNiro, even his recent castrating comedy roles, would have ripped the rifle from the kid's hand in a single second. And let's not even get into Joe Pesci. In contrast, Kingsley comes across much like a drill sergeant. Drill sergeants yell constantly, of course, but after about ten minutes, you realize they can't do much of anything else. This makes an unintentionally comic hash of Kingsley's characterization.

The non-action yelling quickly grows tiresome. You quickly get the impression that other characters fear him because they're probably 90 percent deaf. Thankfully for both audience and other characters, Kingsley's lungs play only a supporting role.

Unthankfully, the movie continues even in Kingsley's absence. At least Kingsley's ineffectual windbag provides some gaseous ballast. Ray Winstone plays a deflated punching bag for Kingsley's sometimes pungent verbal jabs. A film with a retired gangster vs. a very-pro-active gangster needs both roles to be steely, dominating and iron-willed. Instead we get a zesty, though empty-caloried sausage, versus Winstone's doughy flat pancake.

Kingsley and several others are organizing a rip-off. Of whom or what, you ask. As far as the movie lets us know, it could be armored cars, thrift shops, high school athletes living underneath freeway underpasses or just about anything. In the middle, the scheme that brings Kingsley to intimidate the retired, tan and fat ("like old wrinkled leather," per Kingsley) Ray Winstone into returning to a life of crime, suddenly becomes a moot point. It's amazing how shotgun blasts can refocus one's attention.

Some of that new attention brings problems. Eyebrows raise when Kingsley doesn't show up in London, despite Winstone's insistence that Kingsley called him from Heathrow to assure him he arrived okay -- like any kind and gentle, total psychopath would. Even when Alex Lovejoy himself conducts the gangster's side of the investigation, it doesn't necessarily mean the story will lead to a fully realized pay-off. The audience winds up with stolen lovers and unfinished jobs -- and not one whit developed beyond the bit of yelling here and there.

Michael Pacholski

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