Gary Dove (Ray Winstone), a retired Cockney gangster, thinks he has it made. Life is good on Spain's Costa del Sol, where Gary suns himself by the pool while his houseboy, Enrique (Alvaro Monje), does the sweating, and his wife, Deedee (the trashy and terrific Amanda Redman), a former porn star, hands him a beer. Then, boom! A boulder like something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark thunders down from the hills, barely missing Gary and landing in his pool with a tile-cracking crash.
The boulder is the least of Gary's problems. It's the arrival of Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) from London that really puts a dent in Gary's paradise. Don wants Gary back in the U.K. for one more job, and Don is a hood whose offers a wise man can't refuse. Winstone, so good in Nil by Mouth and The War Zone, joins Kingsley in a deadly, and darkly comic, duel of wits. But Kingsley is the man to watch. Spouting profanity, staring daggers at any perceived enemy and talking nuts to himself in a mirror like De Niro in a Cockney Taxi Driver, Kingsley creates an unforgettable monster. Acting rarely gets this hypnotically explosive.
All credit to first-time feature director Jonathan Glazer for keeping the script, by Louis Mellis and David Scinto, anchored to character. Every performance shines, notably that of Ian McShane, who is a malevolent marvel as gang leader Teddy Bass. Glazer, a wonder boy from commercials (Guinness) and music videos (Radiohead), restores the good name to his breed (take that, Michael Bay!) by trafficking in substance as well as style. There's no denying the flashy brilliance of the climactic London bank heist, in which gushing water from an adjacent Turkish bath nearly drowns the robbers and their booty in a bank vault. But it's Kingsley who will fire you up. He's dynamite. Ditto the movie.