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Heroes of the Zeroes: Sexy Beast

by on September 25, 2010
 

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Sexy Beast”
Rated R
2001

Don Logan can instill the fear of God with a phone call announcing his arrival. That’s before he pees on floors to mark foreign territory, spits profane palindromes and launches bombardments of belittling verbal napalm to annihilate the stoutest spirit.

Theoretically, Don is killable, but he feels immortal — a feral, malevolent bogeyman filling his belly with others’ fear, whose demands of you will be met.

By technical standards of an Oscar that Ben Kingsley astonishingly did not win, Don was a supporting character of 2001’s “Sexy Beast” — Jonathan Glazer’s steely, swift crime thriller.

But Kingsley’s jaw-dropping transformation into a rabid, frothing animal remains “Beast’s” premier draw. Don’s surrounding scenes and characters aren’t bad, just a comparative snooze, and the only great non-Don sequence is a poolside prologue set to the Stranglers’ “Peaches.”

It’s not just the ironic kick of watching the guy who played Gandhi get his rocks off on sociopathic violence — a gangster insisting in person that safecracker Gal (Ray Winstone) set aside his Spanish seaside retirement for an elaborate London heist.

Kingsley plumbs to depths of depravity in Don’s psychological warfare — manipulating objects of his wrath into believing they thought up what he wants them to do in the first place.

And when Don addresses his mirror reflection, it shows off not just squiggly veins lodged like corkscrews in Kingsley’s cranium, but Don’s truly terrifying split personality. He’s Gollum as a geezer-gangster who — as one of cinema’s all-time fearsome, loathsome villains — stalks even frames from which he’s absent.