There is absolutely no valid justification for the existence of this prequel movie, as stated in the review of Sexy Beast.
One of the most concise lines of dialogue in all of Steven Spielberg’s work is Jeff Goldblum’s statement in Jurassic Park about the scientists who brought dinosaurs back to life. He said, “They were so focused on whether or not they could, they didn’t pause to think if they should.” This idea also applies to Paramount+’s Sexy Beast, a prequel to the 2000 film that came later in life. Instead of how it was done, the why should have been carefully considered.
This series takes place eight years prior to the release of Jonathan Glazer’s popular thriller starring Ray Winstone. The film is beloved by many older millennials and is often seen as a staple of university dorm room decor. Despite the memory of Winstone in revealing swimwear, the film still holds up well and is a well-crafted piece of cinema. In the film, Winstone’s character, Gal, is happily enjoying retirement in the Costa del Sol with his wife Deedee. However, he is pulled back into a dangerous job by his former partner Don, portrayed with tense and menacing energy by Ben Kingsley.
The sequel to the television show takes us back to 1992 to discover how Gal (now played by James McArdle) ended up where he is. It all starts with a familiar scene – McArdle sunbathing in a pair of small orange shorts on a tower block in London. We follow him and his friend Don (played by Emun Elliott) as they start as small-time thieves and work their way up the criminal ladder with the help of mob boss Teddy (played by Stephen Moyer, known for his role in True Blood, and in the film by Ian McShane). Teddy hires them for a series of increasingly intricate heists, stealing everything from gold coins to small ancient artifacts.
Since this is a prequel, the outcome is largely predetermined. We already know which characters will make it through the eight episodes and we are aware that, despite the main character Gal’s engagement to the kind but not-so-bright Marjorie, he is destined to be with his childhood love, Deedee (played by Sarah Greene).
The main focus of the show is on Deedee, who is portrayed as both the heart and the wisest character in Sexy Beast. The love story between her and Gal, played by Amanda Redman, is central to the film. Winstone’s character sincerely expresses his love for her, comparing it to a rose’s love for rain water. In the prequel, Deedee is a young porn star who begins to gain more control over her work, but is still drawn to the charms of a young thief. Her storyline is the most intriguing and Greene’s performance is the most memorable. She is the only character that could seamlessly fit into Glazer’s previous surreal and tender vision, which is in stark contrast to the simplistic plot of this film. The stereotypical shenanigans of London gangsters are portrayed without much depth or justification for their actions, with mob bosses like Teddy simply stating that in times of war, “our country needs our lunatics.”
Like the crimes, the dynamics of the relationship between Gal and Don aren’t nearly as complex as that brought to the screen by Winstone and Kingsley. There’s a dusty void of chemistry between the two actors, and their characters’ tenuous allegiance bends and then breaks when small fish Gal and Don start work for the maniacal, violent criminal overlord Teddy, who dangles rewards for jobs well done in front of them, expecting the kind of loyalty he’d get from labrador puppies.
In many cases, acts of violence in our society have a disturbing sexual element. Teddy’s violent actions not only involve physically harming his enemy, but also include a disturbing statement about keeping them alive in a coffin with their father. This further highlights the fact that Gal, who finds joy in Deedee’s eyes, is not like the rest of the aggressive and abnormal individuals.
Although there may be some pleasures to be found in the heists, violence, and provocative threats, the overall series is quite repetitive. Deedee and Gal’s love story is the only exception. Gal’s character is reduced to a likable, blonde man, while the rest of the cast portrays one-dimensional villains. Tamsin Greig stands out in her role as Don’s older sister, Cecilia, who is even more despicable. She embodies a botched version of Princess Diana with hints of incest and a constant chain-smoking malice.
Although Greig is enjoying himself greatly portraying a merciless villain, the excitement of everyone else seems to be diminishing in the second to last episode. This episode mainly focuses on the bachelor party before the doomed wedding of Gal and Marjorie. There are a few more violent acts and items to be stolen, but it’s unclear how this contributes to the enjoyment of fans or newcomers to the film. Especially since newcomers could use the same amount of time to watch Glazer’s 85-minute masterpiece, explore his other films, and still have time left over.
The performance moves along smoothly and without any cringeworthy moments, and it does not put Glazer’s current Oscar campaign for The Zone of Interest at risk. However, after the recent TV adaptation of Fatal Attraction which some consider to be more misogynistic, the somber True Lies, and now this predictable London criminal world story, those responsible for bringing beloved films to the small screen should consider the purpose these projects serve. Just because something is possible does not mean it should be done.