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United Kingdom 2010
Directed by
Malcolm Venville
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars

44 Inch Chest

Synopsis: Colin (Ray Winstone) is shattered when his wife decides to leave him. So his old crim mates kidnap the wife's French lover and hold him prisoner in an abandoned squat so that Colin can restore his manhood.

44 Inch Chest opens with promise. As the credits roll the camera tilts up from a shot of broken glass on a carpet to show a living room that has been comprehensively trashed. As the camera pans we see what might be a corpse.The lens lifts up and looks down over the body, closes on the dishevilled face and Colin opens his eyes. Then comes the film’s title and that is frankly as good as it gets. Written by Louis Mellis and David Scinto who penned the outstanding Sexy Beast (2000) which also starred Winstone, 44 Inch Chest comes across as a reworking of Richard III via Glengarry Glen Ross, with Winstone’s Colin as the soliloquizing King and his four likely lad mates standing around like obliging courtiers. The result is faintly ridiculous but worst of all, direly dull with an Angelo Badalamenti score that persistently promises some horrific turn of events that never occurs

The film looks good in a grimly seedy way, the cast that includes Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt and Ian McShane is top drawer and Malcolm Venville’s direction is quite adequate but nothing can retrieve the banality of the script. Sexy Beast worked so well because the verbal violence was so piquant in contrast to the film’s superficially civilized setting. Here it is unrelieved crudity in drab decay. Clearly this is meant to have an artistic cachet and so we get the Shakespearian declamations (particularly from Hurt) and the Mamet-like phrasing and repetitions but with none of either master’s verbal felicity or ability to articulate a character’s thought processes as they face their destiny. In fact, it is staggering just how far from felicitous this film is. One memorable line from Stephen Dillane’s Mal goes something like this: “You fucked his fucking wife, you fucking wife-fucker”.  If you like that turn of wit, you won’t be shortchanged as it then gets repeated with the emphasis altered. And then repeated again with a few more expletives thrown in. As for John Hurt’s endless spittle-dripping foul-mouthing, it's enough to make you wonder how desperate he is for money. There is an attempt to leaven proceedings with Ian McShane as an arch poof which does have some amusement value but it's hardly enough to make this film bearable for 99 minutes.




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