Film4: Saturday 26 December, 11.25pm
Retired London wideboy Ray Winstone lives the lazy life beside the pool at his villa in the Spanish foothills. Besotted with his ex-porn star wife Amanda Redman, Winstone flollops around like a beached whale on Prozac. But a phone call from London shatters his blissful indolence: psychotic gangster Ben Kingsley is coming to offer him a job – and he won’t take no for an answer. Compelling, collar-grabbing crime drama driven by intense portrayals of limeys souring in the sun.
Winstone expertly etches a portrait of a hard man gone to seed, his bull-like bravado shrivelling to whimpering insecurity under the gaze of Kingsley’s animalistic cunning. Kingsley’s ferocious performance is mesmerising as he barks apparently benign lines in an estuary accent dripping with ill-concealed menace. Even so, there’s a turn scarier than Kingsley’s shaven-headed sociopath: Ian McShane plays the smiling gangland boss with eyes as dark and dead as a basking shark’s.
First-time director Jonathan Glazer frames these unloveable characters in strikingly composed widescreen vistas and confines his stylistic flourishes to a couple of ominously symbolic dream sequences. In all other respects it’s a remarkably disciplined debut, some way superior to the vaguely similar Costa del Sol Brit-flick The Hit, and quite as odd and impressive as Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey. Even the weirdly off-putting title is apt, perfectly capturing the deluded way we often see ourselves. The perspectives are even stranger in Glazer’s freaky sci-fi drama Under the Skin, which follows at 1.10am.