44 Inch Chest * * * *

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Director: Malcolm Venville.
Screenplay: Louis Mellis, David Scinto.
Starring: Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Dillane, Joanne Whalley, Melvil Poupaud, Steven Berkoff.

Remember the British gangster film “Sexy Beast” released in 2000? You know, the one where “Gandhi” goes ape shit? Well, this film brings some of the cast and crew back together again. Unfortunately, it seems that Ben Kingsley wasn’t taking ‘yes’ for an answer this time and isn’t involved. It does, however, have actors Ray Winstone and Ian McShane again, as well as screenwriters Louis Mellis and David Scinto. Now, this may not have gained the same acclimations as it’s predecessor but this is still an undeniably powerful film in it own right.

When his wife Liz (Joanne Whalley) says she’s leaving him for another man, Colin Diamond (Ray Winstone) refuses to take it. He enlists the help of his criminal friends Meredith (Ian McShane), Peanut (John Hurt), Archie (Tom Wilkinson) and Mal (Stephen Dillane) in abducting her lover (Melvil Poupaud). They take him back to an old flat and keep him in a wardrobe, while deciding on how to take revenge.

Where “Sexy Beast” had it’s English lowlife criminals sunning it up in the villas of Spain. This film has them on their own turf. It’s back to the grit and grime of dear ol’ ‘Landan’ where Winstone gets to be ‘the Daddy’ again. This is no bad thing though as it’s what Winstone does best. And… he’s not alone. He’s joined by an excellent cast of familiar British actors – who all get their turn at spouting some vitriol. It’s the performers that’s the best thing about this and having such choice actors as Hurt, Wilkinson, McShane, and the very underrated Dillane all backing up the lead, is a thing of dramatic gold. The performances are uniformly superb and it’s an added bonus that they don’t go anywhere. This is a moody and intense chamber piece that has all of the actors sharing the same limited space for almost the entire film, making it more akin to a stage-play. There is a brooding intensity to it that only benefits from the actors’ terrifying and multilayered performances. On the surface, the characters have such a ferocity that they resemble a pack of rabid dogs but there are undercurrents of repression and weakness, at times making them about as threatening as a poodle. It’s this very attention to characterisation that keeps this film going. It’s also wonderfully shot in a sepia hue that adds a stark and bleak environment to the match the material. It may be too grim and misogynist for some tastes but essentially this is a love story about men full of bravado but quite fragile underneath their tough exterior. That being said, there’s no denying it’s vehement and vigorous approach and the title itself is very fitting.

I greatly enjoyed “Sexy Beast” but it’s wholly unfair that this film was compared and ultimately overshadowed by it. This is an impressive, moody and claustrophobic chamber piece with an ensemble that deliver with all the force they can muster.

Mark Walker

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7 Responses to “44 Inch Chest * * * *”

  1. Paragraph Film Reviews Says:

    Spot on review, agree with almost everything above. I liked the lyrical tone of the script, which I drifted along with. But loved it most when each character got their 5 minutes to shine… couldn’t fault any of the acting.

    • Thanks man. Yeah, I really enjoyed this. It’s a shame it hasn’t reached a wider audience. Like you say, the acting is first class and I particularly like Dillane. A very underrated actor.

  2. Two very good films, nice review and especially your points about both films as they are indeed cozy bed fellows. I covered the film here http://rorydean.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/44inch-chest/ and would be thrilled to hear your thoughts, compare notes, see what lines up and where or if at all.

    I really liked both of these films and, as you point out, the cast is the very finest in known and notable talent. Sam Winstones is superb. If you haven’t seen what is most likely the only Australian Western – The Proposition – with Guy Pierce, you’re in for a real treat with Winstone as a broken old criminal/cop fighting to live and stay the same forever in the face of so much death. See y around->

    • Nice to hear from another fan of this. I sometimes get a bit tired of seeing Winstone play the same old roles but he’s superb in this, very intense. I have seen The Proposition also and thoroughly enjoyed that as well. This performance from Winstone and Nil By Mouth are my favourites from him but the rest of the cast in this are equally as good. Thanks for stopping by Rory.

  3. Nice review. I’ve never seen this picture but I really like Winstone.

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