Propped up by its writers’ Sexy Beast pedigree and ability to enlist a couple of that superior film’s stars, 44 Inch Chest parades profanity, jumbled chronology, and limp psychodrama but proves woefully short on character development or narrative structure. With a “You poof!” here and a “You cunt!” there, Louis Mellis and David Scinto’s expletive-laden script mistakes vulgar tough-guy bluster as a be-all end-all as it details—through pretentious flashbacks and dream sequences typified by self-conscious framing and use of music—the efforts of thug Colin Diamond (Ray Winstone) to cope with the revelation that his beloved wife Liz (Joanne Whalley) is leaving him for a young, studly waiter. As slowly becomes clear, Colin’s cockney gangster buddies—a coarse old-timer with dentures (John Hurt), a guy still living with his mom (Tom Wilkinson), a dapper young roughneck (Stephen Dillane), and a suave homosexual (Ian McShane)—have kidnapped Liz’s “loverboy” so that Colin can exact his brutal revenge. While this basic setup is revealed through empty chronological flip-flops, 44 Inch Chest also takes great pains to depict Winstone sweating, muttering, and generally freaking out with anxiety-laced menace, thus establishing that the real dramatic crux of the piece is whether Colin will do away with his wife’s boy-toy—and, thus, whether or not masculinity is defined only by vicious strength or if it’s a more multifaceted quality that can include patience and thoughtfulness (as McShane’s dandy demonstrates) as well as compassion. Unfortunately, Mellis and Scinto’s script, helmed with standard-issue grittiness and overdone hallucinatory flourishes by Malcolm Venville, never concocts more than a mundane investigation into macho codes, with the plot fixated on psychosexual panic attacks and longwinded monologues at the expense of first developing unique nuances for its cadre of criminals, not to mention a third-act destination of some weight or surprise. With nowhere of interest to go, the film’s illustrious cast merely spins its wheels spitting invectives at each other and their bloody and bruised prisoner, their swearing seemingly intended to reveal the tangled relationship between pride, ego, manliness and misogyny, but instead doing little more than revel in nastiness of a dully familiar, aimless sort.
- Malcolm Venville
- Louis Mellis, David Scinto
- Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Tom Wilkinson, Joanne Whalley, Dave Legeno, Stephen Dillane, Steven Berkoff, Melvil Poupaud
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