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Tuesday, 9 January, 2001, 15:34 GMT
Winstone's gangster wrap
Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast
Winstone plays reformed crook Gal Dove repenting in a villa in Spain
By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas

Putting out another gangster movie would seem to be an unimaginative way for British cinema to begin a fresh year but actor Ray Winstone is out to prove the genre's critics wrong.

Burly East Ender Winstone is the star of Sexy Beast, following the theme made so popular by Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Gangster No 1 and The Limey.


This film is much more than just a gangster flick - it is a very clever piece of writing and there are a lot of feelings of love going on

Ray Winstone

Winstone insists Sexy Beast is not just another chip off the old block and will stand out in a class of its own.

"This film is much more than just a gangster flick. It is a very clever piece of writing and there are a lot of feelings of love going on," says Winstone.

Sexy Beast tells the story of reformed crook Gal Dove, played by Winstone, who is trying to live a life of innocent retirement - thanks to his ill-gotten gains - in Spain with his wife and their two best friends.

However, the firm back home in Blighty have different ideas for Gal. They despatch livewire lunatic Don Logan, played by Ben Kingsley, to bring Gal back for "just one more" bank job.

Ray Winstone as Gal in Sexy Beast
Winstone goes against type as the vulnerable Gal

What ensues is a battle of wits and wills between Gal and Logan, and Gal and those who love him, particularly his long suffering wife DeeDee, played by Amanda Redman.

Relationships

Sexy Beast is the directorial debut of Jonathan Glazer - the mastermind behind many memorable ads including Guinness's black-and-white "surfer" commercial.

The screenplay comes from Lois Mellis and David Schinto, who also wrote the stage play which inspired Gangster No 1.

Luckily, however, the comparisons with that brutal flop end there.

Amanda Redman as DeeDee in Sexy Beast
Amanda Redman: Stands by her man as devoted wife DeeDee

Winstone says the movie is much more about human relationships and the criminal psyche than bullets and bad language.

"The script understands the difference between a gangster and a thief - which is what is going on between Logan and Gal.

"But it also looks at what it is for a man to love a woman and also for a man to love a man.

"The way Don Logan treats Gal is frustrating and shows that there is more to his feelings than meets the eye."

But if Sexy Beast as a whole stands apart from the gangster genre, then rough diamond Gal is a departure for Winstone himself.

Vulnerable

Winstone, 43, has built a reputation for powerful hardman roles, most notably in Gary Oldman's traumatic tale of wife battering and alcoholism Nil By Mouth and Tim Roth's harrowing child abuse story The War Zone.

More Winstone credits
Love Honour and Obey (2000)
There's Only one Jimmy Grimble (2000)
Fanny & Elvis (1999)
Births, Marriages and Deaths (TV 1999)
The War Zone
Nil By Mouth (1997)
Fox (TV series 1980)
Quadrophenia (1979)
Scum (TV 1977)

He also played a nasty piece of work in another of last year's small British gangster movies, Love, Honour and Obey.

But as Gal, Winstone gets to play a complex, vulnerable mixture of hard and soft - considered an easy target by the hardcore criminals on his heels.

Winstone says he revelled in portraying Gal.

"I was very flattered to be asked to take the role. There was a time when I would instantly have been cast as the nutcase but instead I was picked to play the big teddy bear," he laughs.

"In taking a risk in the casting, the producers have got one of the best performances audiences will probably have seen from Ben Kingsley, and hopefully from me as well."

Indeed Kingsley - who is better known for playing gentle, righteous characters such as Gandhi - surpasses himself as menacing Logan.

Ben Kingsley as Don Logan in Sexy Beast
Kingsley defies expectations as the unstable Logan

Sexy Beast challenges audience preconceptions of its leading men and in "gangster" films, and if it is a success, it could revive interest in any film given the tag.

If so, it will have come out at just the right time. A new wave of British gangster movies comes out over the next few months, starting with The Criminal, starring Eddie Izzard.

In its wake will follow Lava and Going Off Big Time - to name but a few.

Quality

Winstone dismisses suggestions that British film-makers are fixated with the genre.

"There are a lot of other genres that keep being redone, such as cop movies or hospital dramas," he says.


Sexy Beast can be enjoyed on lots of different levels whereas films like Nil by Mouth and The War Zone are there as a social comment and to change your mind

Ray Winstone

In fact, Winstone is not afraid to stand up and be counted as a supporter of the theme.

"I'd do another gangster movie tomorrow or the week after if it was a good script - there is merit in all types of film," Winstone says.

"Sexy Beast can be enjoyed on lots of different levels whereas films like Nil by Mouth and The War Zone are there as a social comment and to change your mind."

He concludes: "On top of that, you can make your mark as an actor by adding something different and making your performance stand out."

Sexy Beast is out across the UK on 12 February.

See also:

01 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Guy and Vinnie get flash
07 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Guy Ritchie's rise to fame
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