Double Feature: Accidentally in Love (Sexy Beast & Highlander)
Double features are a great way to watch movies. Well-selected double features complement each other like food and wine, bringing out hidden flavors or making you realize new aspects of something familiar. If you’re ever in need of a keenly paired set of movies to screen, check out our handy pre-packaged Double Features category– complete with theme breakdowns, aesthetic comparisons, and honest commentary about which movie should be the leading feature.
Want to watch a crazy movie with all sorts of exciting events but your ball-and-chain of a boyfriend just wants to watch a love story and snuggle? (Dudes, am I right?) Split the difference with this duo of gun and sword wielding films that are really romances in disguise.
Leading feature: Sexy Beast (2000)
Sexy Beast (2000) had the foresight to know that the day would come when the movie-watching public was so insanely tired of heist movies that we’d look back on the plethora of those released with disinterest, if not disdain. Fortunately for Sexy Beast, it’s not a heist movie. There’s a heist in it, certainly, but that’s like saying Gone With the Wind is a war movie just because at some point in the movie there’s a war.
Sexy Beast focuses less on the criminal activity and more on the humans involved, particularly on one who gets roped back into it. It uses the same old story of a retired criminal living happily as an upstanding (well, upstanding enough) citizen and his reluctance to get back into the world of illegal activity but the driving force isn’t just the desire to stay out of trouble. For Gal (Ray Winstone), his motivation is to get the job done and get home to the wife he loves immensely before something the two of them recently did together catches up with him.
If that sounds vague then I suggest you watch the movie. The heist, in many ways, is an afterthought and the majority of the tension comes from Gal navigating some of the nastiest and annoying criminals the underworld has produced, played by Ian Mcshane and Ben Kingsley respectively.
Amanda Redman plays Gal’s wife Deedee, an ex-porn star who is also in deeply in love with her husband. I mention her previous profession to praise the movie for using it as a level of her character and not a flaw or mistake of her character. In fact, it only gets mentioned in one scene where Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) is berating Gal in an attempt to get him to agree to the heist. Don makes disparaging remarks, recalls other women Gal could have had, and refers to Deedee as “Dirty Deedee.” The last line in the scene is Gal looking away from Don, towards Deedee’s room, and telling him that he loves her with all his soul.
Is there blood and gun play? Sure. Is there tension that promises to explode with all the fury of Ian Mcshane with well-coiffed hair? You betcha. Is there also a super powerful love story and a gorgeous, surreal love scene where husband and wife float underwater through the night sky? Of course there is. Why wouldn’t there be?
This isn’t a heist movie and that’s a good thing. Heist movies by this point have become pretty formulaic and while there’s always a few exceptions (Aura from 2014 comes to mind), most of them hit so many of the same notes that they’re almost identical. Sexy Beast is, if nothing else, a unique and emotional movie.
Second billing: Highlander (1986)
The second movie in our Accidentally in Love double feature is considerably closer to b-movie material, hence the second billing. The year 1986 brought us a lot of great movies and Highlander, in a way, is one of them. With a cult following and Clancy Brown in goth makeup, Highlander has its charms. If you go into this looking forward to some choreographed action and/or choreographed love scenes then you won’t be disappointed. If you go into this wondering if there was ever a time when Sean Connery wasn’t a bland, one-note performer then it’s going to be rough. That’s right, I said it: Sean Connery sucks. He’s not even, like, the third best Bond. Motherfucker’s behind Lazenby on my list.
But I digress. The story is probably pretty familiar to most people: a group of immortals roam through time and space to find each other and cut each other’s heads off. Even if you haven’t seen it, you have at least one friend who insists on screaming, “there can be only one!” whenever the chance arises. Connor Macleod (Christopher Lambert) is one of the last Highlanders who finds himself being hunted and eventually winds up in the bed of Brenda Wyatt (Roxanne Hart), a detective investigating him.
What makes this movie perfect for the double feature is the love story between Connor and Brenda. It’s closer to a fairy tale romance with a valiant hero battling a dark force (The Kurgan, played by a pair of razor sharp cheekbones named Clancy Brown) and saving his kidnapped princess. While I understand how gag-inducing that last part sounds, it’s actually not that bad when you watch it. Brenda is as close to a full-fledged character as any of the men and though she does succumb to the tired trope of “female love interest having to be rescued,” she acts and moves throughout the movie independently as she tries to figure out what in the hell is going on. It was the eighties so I guess sexism wasn’t a thing yet. Simpler times. Ha-ha.
There are swords and heads rolling around, music from Queen, and people pretending Christopher Lambert is more attractive than Clancy Brown, but there’s also a love story wound organically through it so you have something to keep everyone happy. Or at least happy enough.
Common themes: Love, destruction of enemies, self-sacrifice, domesticity, returning to another time in literal and metaphorical ways
Common aesthetics: Few similarities except for semi-goth villains