Directed by Jonathan Glazer, starring Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley & Ian McShane.

Vicious dialogue and nasty scenes, the British gangster flick has suffered savage beatings at the hands of filmmakers of late. But after the traumas of 'Circus', 'Love, Honor, & Obey' and 'Honest', debutant director Jonathan Glazer has given some much-needed street form back to the genre. Winstone is Gal, a former London villain who now takes more interest in his own property than in the wealth of others. Living and loving the life of a waddling landowner in Spain, his sunshine peace is interrupted by the arrival of Don Logan (Kingsley), an 'associate' who wants Gal in London for a big job. From minute one it's obvious that Logan lost the plot three shootings and four stretches back, and when Gal politely declines his offer, the scene is set for a deluge of dirty laundry.

Crime fans rejoice: this is the most effective, electric piece of hoodlum theatre you'll see all year. Glazer earned his crust in advertising (the Guinness ad with the horses? that was him) before taking the next step up; and while he may lose his way with the just-add-rain pacing of the London segment, the chainsaw chat of 'Sexy Beast' suggests that this is just the start of bigger scores. Bathing the film in the hazy heat and foreboding of Spanish nowhere, he eschews physical violence in favour of nervy standoffs and psychological dust-ups between Winstone and Kingsley. The result is a film that does its dirty work with phrases not fists.

And for those whose experience of Kingsley extends to his roles of serene courage in 'Gandhi' and 'Schindler's List', his performance in 'Sexy Beast' will come as a shock. A double barreled one. Surrounded by a cast that look like the poster boys for a police line up, he gives a master class in battery acid menace. Tattooed, chain smoking and firing expletives around like buckshot; his treatment of Winstone's hapless hood is a wicked joy. "I'm a good listener," he tells Winstone as he attempts to explain why he can't go to London. He gets about three words in before Kingsley instructs him to shut it in no uncertain terms.

GBH, verbal style, 'Sexy Beast' is guaranteed to inspire a thousand scene replays in pubs on a Friday night. It's good to talk.

Harry Guerin