Review: 44 Inch Chest
PLOT: After Colin Diamond’s wife tells him that she’s had an affair, he looses control. He is a man that never doubted their marriage, and finds himself sinking into a bitter depression, and a need for revenge. Lucky for Colin, he’s got a brute circle of friends that offer their services when it comes to teaching this bloke a lesson. But Colin finds that revenge isn’t all that easy, and that fear and pain can bring a strong man down to his knees… with a little help from his mates.
44 INCH CHEST is a man’s movie. It is filled with testosterone, crude and rude language and a little bit of male bonding. But it is far from the film you’d expect it to be. This dissection of the male ego gives a glimpse into one man’s state of well being after finding out his wife is having an affair. But this is not a violent picture, nor is it a fast paced, slow-motion, hip action film. It could’ve been. But the script written by Louis Mellis and David Scinto would feel more at home alongside David Mamet as opposed to airing on Spike TV. It feels very much like a stage production in the way it was shot and the way it takes place mostly in one room. But the sharp and insightful dialogue is good enough to keep you involved, unless of course your type of Brit Flick is LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS… but I’m guessing it’s okay to dig both.
The opening sequence is gold. We see images of someone’s home that has been ransacked. But the music that plays s the classic, “my life sucks” ballad, “Without You” by Harry Nilson. Soon, we find this poor fellow lying in the middle of the mess. We have no idea why he is lying there, although it is a safe bet he is depressed. This man, Colin Diamond (Ray Winstone), is discovered by his mates. While he isn’t dead, he sure seems to want to be. It is a pathetic position to be in and Mr. Winstone is damn terrific here. While we learn of his unfortunate situation and the reason why his house is a disaster, his performance goes from fear to hate to love to sheer heartbreak. At times it is near comical, but it is not cheapened and played for laughs, this is a dead serious, wonderful performance. And hey, if your wife was Joanne Whalley, and she wanted to leave you, I suppose you’d be miserable too. It’s fantastic to see this talented lady again, and she is quite good as Mrs. Colin Diamond.
The biggest challenge that director Malcolm Venville faces is, as mentioned, that this takes place in mostly one room. But he manages to keep things moving at an even pace and let the performances from the actors take center stage. Yes it feels like a stage production in many ways, but that is only a mild distraction which soon wears off. Thankfully, the visuals are supported by an effective score from David Lynch favorite, Angelo Badalamenti and 100 Suns. There is a somber tone that supports this deep, dark look into the soul of machismo. And if you are easily offended by adult language, then you need to avoid this movie at all costs. If you have a drinking game whenever someone swears, you’d be wasted in five minutes. But as dreary as this all sounds, it is far from it. There is enough humor spread evenly throughout and can it come from the most surprising moments without being ridiculous. But what is even more surprising, is when it shifts gears into a very soft and sensitive place of uneasiness. One scene involving the unlucky man who had sex with Colin’s wife (Melvil Poupaud) and Colin himself is completely unexpected and sort of poetic.
As for the rest of the cast, you can’t do much better than Tom Wilkinson, Ian McShane, John Hurt and Stephen Dillane. The four actors are perfect as they attempt to help their wronged friend get a little sweet revenge. And here is where the movie really shines. Each one of these actors truly bring the dialogue to life. It is almost like “The View”, except with a bunch of manly men, calling out the word “c*nt” and “f*ck”. This is a mans movie. I’m not sure how women would react, especially with the crude nature of the language, and of course, a disturbing scene involving a very unhappily married couple fighting that leads to abuse. It is very hard to label 44 Inch Chest because it is not a simple film. I guess the best way to describe it would be a machismo character study, but even that really isn’t terribly accurate. Either way, this is a thought provoking bit of cinema, as long as you know what you are getting into... and don't let the title fool you, it's not about what you might think. My rating 8/10 -- JimmyO