Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Colin Diamond (Ray Winstone) is distraught. He has come home, bearing gifts no less, just have his wife Liz (Joanne Whalley) inform him that he is being left for another man. Colin did not take this news well. As a matter of fact, after twenty plus years of marriage you would think that Liz would know her husband better than this and would’ve simply texted Colin this notice. So you know the steps… Denial, Anger, and eventually Acceptance. Colin’ extended anger period is what this movie ‘44 Inch Chest’ is all about.

All Colin wants to know is what this man’s name is. Liz isn’t talking. After some subtle persuasion Liz is telling Colin whatever the hell he wants to know. Now it’s time to bring Colin’s mates into the fray which consist of the seemingly soft Archie (Tom Wilinson) who still lives with his mum, Mal (Stephan Dillane) the loose cannon tough guy of the group, Peanut (John Hurt) the incredibly hostile and profane senior citizen of the crew and Meredith (Ian McShane), the ultra charming homosexual who also seems to be the last member of the crew you would want to mess with.

So our team members snatch Loverboy (Melvin Poupaud) from his place of business, in broad daylight no less, and proceed to ponder what to do with him. It seems that Loverboy’s fate is all but sealed as the crew overwhelmingly has chosen to remove his carbon imprint from the planet but, rightfully so, they leave the final decision to Colin. Thing is Colin is tripping. Bad. Colin really, really loved this woman. So while trying to figure out how to best extract his revenge Colin is beset by images and visions that he cannot control while a beaten, bloodied, bound and silent French waiter observes in fear as this drunken sweaty loon plans out his immediate future. It really does look like the world will be short one adulterous French waiter if you ask me.

I think that few would argue that the strength of ‘44 Inch Chest’, directed by Malcolm Venville, lies within its cast. It is a great cast and at times the dialog in this movie, penned by Louis Mellis and David Scinto, is so sharp, witty, and clever, and delivered so expertly by this great cast that you almost want to cry. At times. The majority of the movie takes place within the confines of an enclosed room, think along the lines of ‘Reservoir Dogs’, with this room being populated by characters who we assume are of a criminal nature just as the rooms were occupied by those in the movie we have just mentioned. Now just exactly how our varied collection of urbanite thugs are connected to each other is never explicitly stated, and that would’ve been an interesting nugget to be made aware I think. We can assume, I believe, that they are criminals of some kind, or at least have been at one time. Especially considering that they take this Loverboy in broad daylight and seem to have very little concern about the possible repercussions of doing this and say having this person turn up dead a few days later. No concern whatsoever. Alas we aren’t privileged to any of this information, with it being left to our imaginations, so we won’t dwell on it.

What we are privileged to witness are some fine performances from some great actors, especially Ian McShane who at this point in his career doesn’t seem to be able to make a misstep even if he were to attempt to. The venomous cool that he elicited for the character of Meredith and the casual conviction in which he delivered his lines was certainly a highlight of the movie for me. McShane has been doing this acting since before a lot of us, like me, were even born and I’m not a young guy. But like a lot of us on this side of the pond we weren’t all that aware of his existence until he showed up on HBO one day blatantly stealing episodes of ‘Deadwood’. Thank goodness for Deadwood.

While McShane was the brightest he certainly wasn’t the only one light that shined in this film with all of the actors doing fine work, John Hurt in particular as the crusty old man who can’t control his language or his dentures.

The problem with the movie, at least to my untrained eye, is that there just wasn’t enough material to sustain ninety or so minutes worth of movie. Since apparently our characters can only be witty and clever for so long we have to endure these long stretches of Colin hallucinating and experiencing these drawn out dream sequences which I’m sure are supposed to have a greater meaning but instead felt as if they were tacked on to add some length to the movie and give Joanne Whalley a little more to do, outside of getting repeatedly punched in the face by Ray Winstone. There was also this long sequence where the character of Peanut revisits Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah, replete with movie clips. It was funny but again it did seem tacked on. The one thing that sequence did accomplish was making me want to track down that old movie and witness Victor Mature as Samson. Who the hell thought that was a good idea in 1949? Hate to speak ill of the dead but Victor Mature was the best they could do? Hedy Lamar on the other hand…

Still, despite the fact it felt like there wasn’t enough movie to sustain this movie, it is worth seeing for the performances of the actors alone. Bring a thick skin because these cats do have some mighty powerful potty mouths.

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