44 Inch Chest
Review by Jack Foley
44 INCH Chest, the latest creation from the writers of Sexy Beast, finally arrives on our screens bearing the weight of great expectation. Sadly, it disappoints.
Plot-wise, the story just doesn’t grip as strongly as it should, while the language and overly misogynistic tendencies eventually become wearying.
And the blame largely lies at the feet of co-writers Louis Mellis and David Scinto, whose screenplay is more muscular than it needs to be, and more theatrical than cinematic.
First-time feature director Malcolm Venville does a credible job of allowing events to unfold in their claustrophobic setting, evoking memories of the warehouse environment of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs at times.
While the cast, which is packed with British stalwarts, generally excel.
But the story and some of its choice dialogue is a bit of a turn-off and feels stretched to breaking point, even at a little over 90 minutes.
Ray Winstone stars as Colin Diamond, a big man with a fragile heart, whose life is shattered when his wife Liz (Joanne Whalley) announces that she’s leaving him for another man.
In a blind rage, he lashes out and must pick up the pieces from the fallout that ensues.
First, however, Colin’s friends abduct his wife’s lover and hold him captive in a run-down building while Colin decides how best to take his revenge.
The friends in question are comprised of gay gambler Meredith (Ian McShane), middle-aged Mum’s boy Archie (Tom Wilkinson), chancer Mal (Stephen Dillane) and vitriolic Old Man Peanut (John Hurt), while the unlucky lad is a French waiter (played by Melvil Poupaud).
Once the set-up has been established, the action stays largely static as the actors deliberate the consequences of their actions and mull over Colin’s deteriorating mental state.
The questions hanging over all of them, meanwhile, are what has happened to Colin’s wife and how far will Colin go to gain revenge.
To be fair, some of the script is witty, insightful and suitably provocative.
The fragility of love and the vulnerability of the male ego gives rise to some memorable debates and monologues, while the verbal sparring and baiting between the testosterone-driven men is often first-rate.
But Mellis and Scinto occasionally seem to be celebrating the swearing and bravado of these foolish male egos a little too much and Winstone’s Colin is a conflicted character whose violent actions are impossible to condone, or even come close to warming to.
Viewers may also tire of hearing just how many times Hurt gets to issue the word “c**t”, while even the F-word count seems ridiculously and unnecessarily high.
The second half of the film also peters out badly, with a surreal dream sequence backfiring badly and throwing a real spanner in the works.
That said, Winstone is superb in the lead role and deserves better from the script, while McShane is a delight.
44 Inch Chest therefore has its moments but is considerably less than the sum of its parts.
Running time: 94mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: May 10, 2010
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Ray Winstone interview
- Malcolm Venville interview
- 44 Inch Chest Photo Gallery
- View UK premiere photos