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Sexy Beast – Season 1

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Cult Classic to the Small Screen

To those of you unfamiliar with the movie its based on, Sexy Beast, which was released way back in 2000, delves primarily on the dynamic between the retired thief Gal Dove and the infamous Don Logan, played by Ray Winstone and Sir Ben Kingsley respectively.  The movie itself was a thrilling ride, full of tense confrontations, mostly due to to Kingsley’s performance as the unhinged psychopath Gal had the misfortune of dealing with. 

A bit of background as to why I’ve watched the Sexy Beast series. Sir Ben Kingsley is one of the most celebrated actors of our generation spanning decades of deserved accolades and achievements. Other actors of his caliber always praised Kingsley’s acting performance, giving credit to embodying each of his characters in front of the cinematic lens. 

Now all of them have tipped their hats in salutation, but the key moment that grabbed their attention to the legendary actor was his portrayal as Don Logan in Sexy Beast. Even Sir Anthony Hopkins wrote a fan letter as well as directly called Ben in excitement for his performance. Mind you, this was more than a decade after his performance in his Oscar-winning role as Gandhi. Safe to say, with that kind of pedigree for Kingsley’s character, I was expecting too much for the series, and rightfully so.

In complete contradiction to the hail of praises I’ve given to the old movie, the Sexy Beast series was dry, forced, and utterly lacking. I for one can admit that some of the cast do resemble a bit of the original. Like James McArdle playing Gal is somewhat passable as a young Ray Winstone. Or that Emun Elliot’s mannerisms and quirks is a faint reflection of Sir Ben Kingsley’s performance. But to be completely honest, providing the fact that this is an origin story for the movie, it was, as Gal pointed out, ‘Gray, Grimy, and Sooty’. A murky replica that pales in comparison to its counterpart.

Gray, Grimy, Sooty: The Curse of A Prequel

I have to be honest with this one, as much as I like the movie that the series is based on, the basic fact is that the characters are a clearly an imitation quality of the genuine article. Their dialogues and nuances are blatantly ripped from the source material and basically sprinkled it in with no regard for situational context. This series hurts me a lot as a fan of the movie. I find myself constantly projecting Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone having a go at it as the scenes progressed. I was naive watching this series with rose tinted glasses. The opportunity was simply too blinding. Seeing the origin story of Gal and Don, along with Aitch and Deedee, was a dream come true for Sexy Beast fans. But that is all there is, an ill-constructed fan fiction that was a clear cash-crab from dedicated fans.

For the fans of Ben and Ray’s Sexy Beast, I pose a truthful question. Whenever you see Gal and Don’s character in the screen, do you imagine it was the original actors playing the scene? Do you superimpose their faces into them and imagine what it would have been like if the veteran actors were young once more and playing those parts again? If you’re like me then that’s a yes. I am not disqualifying the series’ actors, not in the slightest. Both titular characters of the series did their best with what they’ve got. It is just quite hard to swallow that the product given to us was not as expected. In this very case, I can safely say that the movie was better. The movie released in the 2000’s was better than the 2024 released series, and I’m trying to put my finger as to why that is the case.

The direction and pace of the movie was all over the place. I can understand that this is the origin story of the famous Sexy Beast characters, but jumping left and right with plot after incoherent plot is a dizzying chore to do. One minute they’re talking about a heist, next minute its about Don’s family troubles, then off again to Gal’s family, then Deedee’s adult film journey, and so on. Trying to mash together all this narrative to fit a singular and clear goal is frustrating to watch.

To condense the story further, this is a heist plan for another heist plan, and so on. As rising through the ranks go, this is pretty much straight forward. The psychopathic Don Logan being portrayed as a lesser version of himself is quite entertaining, though they should have focused more on developing the story to compliment the movie, not the other way around. Adhering to prequel laws, you will begin to understand that the series focused on the wrong thing.


A Slow Burn Heist with Nothing At Stake

To be perfectly clear, If someone watched this series and had no idea what the movie it was based on even existed, I can pretty much guarantee they would have bored themselves into finishing just the first episode. It was very unclear who this series was made for. Was it for fans of Kingsley’s performance in the movie?  Was it to give a glimpse on Winstone’s character and rise to prominence? Overall, it was a convoluted mess that fans of the movie better not watch.

From a different point of view, The basic premise of the Sexy Beast series is a story of a group of thieves getting a foothold into a more larger view of the criminal vista. As each job gets harder and harder, so does their notoriety increases. Basically, the series is a step by step ascension in the business of stealing things. Characters aside, the story felt flat and that the producers of this show might have taken into account the legacy of the characters and bet it all on that for the show to even be half decent at best. The writers are working with material that has a clear end with no deviating path away from it.

One last thing to prove my point from above. The one about being a slow burn with nothing at stake? Yes. This is what prequels are having a bit of trouble getting right. There is no stake involved. None. You know why? Because every decision they are currently making in the series would have reached a conclusive outcome, which is the story line from the movie it was based on. Any threat of death or anything else is out of the window once you realized, ‘Hey, Gal’s going to be alright, he can’t die here. He’s still alive 20 years later and living in Spain in the movie.’ With that in mind, why should I care about the characters and their dilemmas. And if I don’t care what happens to them, why should I even bother watching the series in the first place?

About the Author – Alvin Asiaten

Alvin is a multifaceted creative who finds inspiration in binge-watching various TV series and immersing himself in the world of video games. As a skilled graphic illustrator and video editor, he brings his unique vision to perspective and is well informed in the art of captivating visuals and storytelling.

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