Set eight years before the events of Jonathan Glazer’s Oscar-nominated film of the same name, Paramount+’s Sexy Beast follows anti-heroes Gal (now played by James McArdle) and Dom (this time, Emon Elliot) as they ascend through the ranks of London’s criminal underworld when they’re hired by a prominent crime boss to commit some high-value robberies. Although this series begins with a homage to the 2000 film, with Gal soaking up the sun in orange speedos on a rooftop instead of a Spanish villa, this prequel series doesn’t share much in common with the original film. Change the characters’ names, and viewers are left with a standard British gangster affair.
When we first meet Gal and Dom at the start of the show, they’re street-level criminals looking for their big break. That opportunity comes when the pair are approached by notorious criminal Teddy Bass (Stephen Moyer). It’s the bread-and-butter set-up for a crime thriller, with the leads being just as conventional. Gal is the suave tough guy with the slicked-back blonde hair and charming smile, whereas Dom is the jittery psychopath who could be set off at any moment. While Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley shared an onscreen chemistry that brought these characters to life with a sharp sense of humour, McArdle and Elliot’s rapport doesn’t have the same level of energy.
The plot within the first two episodes is likewise chaotically paced. Subplots of family drama and Gal’s burgeoning romance with Deedee (Sarah Greene) are jammed in between scenes of gangsters plotting in swanky nightclubs and clunkily shot action scenes. Moreover, the violence doesn’t have much bite to it. With the notable exception of a particularly macabre scene in which Teddy gets revenge against a rival’s son in a nightclub, the action feels restrained and at odds with the brutality of the setting.
Despite some notable flaws, there is some entertainment to be had here. The handful of heists in the show so far have been engaging, the performances are generally solid across the board, and genre fans will undoubtedly get a kick out of the colourfully creative dialogue. This Sexy Beast may not live up to the legacy of Glazer’s film, but it still makes for a decent slice of British crime telly.
Sexy Beast is released on Paramount+ on 25th January 2024.
Watch the trailer for Sexy Beast here: