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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 12.07.09] United Kingdom movie review drama

Year: 2009
Director: Malcolm Venville
Writers: Louis Mellis & David Scinto
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 8 out of 10

It took nearly ten years but the men behind Sexy Beast are back and their follow-up follows in the footsteps of their first film, a macho experience which is bound to leave audiences flabbergasted. If one manages to get over the often mumbled lines and the million miles a minute swearing, viewers are likely to discover a film with something to say but will it alienate a huge chunk the audience before getting there?

A sort of The Big Kahuna for the gangster wannabe, 44 Inch Chest stars Ray Winstone as Colin Diamond, a man who has had a bad day. His wife just broke his heart by leaving him for another man (though not before a confrontation that leaves their home in shambles) and Colin has retreated into himself. He’s half delirious with rage and sadness when he calls his friend Archie who in turn gets “the gang” together for an intervention, one that lasts for the remainder of the film. And it’s a talkie.

The crew are trying to bring Colin back by convincing him to exact revenge on the man his wife has cheated with, but they do so not by force but with words. There’s Old Man Peanut (John Hurt), the oldie who reminisces about the good old days and who pushes for violence, the smooth talking Mal (Stephen Dillane), the soft hearted Archie (Tom Wilkinson) who lives with his mother and Meredith (Ian McShane), the sensible one. For eighty minutes the group reminisces about the past, women and relationships. And they swear. A lot. Perhaps it’s supposed to be some indication of the hardness of these men that they spew expletives faster and more often than Nicky Santoro in Casino but partway through the film, this started to rattle my nerves; not only is it unnecessary but it adds little to the story.

Amidst the gabbing there are flashes of Colin’s mind. We see, in flashback, the break-up, the events that unfolded immediately after it and also a glimpse of Colin’s thought process. In an internal dialogue featuring his friends and even his wife Liz, he talks himself down from a rage, convincing himself that there was nothing he could do to prevent the affair and that the right thing to do is simply let Liz and her lover walk away.

Louis Mellis and David Scinto’s script is a beast intricately jumping between non-sequential stories (the most interesting of which is Meredith’s though that may have something to do with McShane’s spectacular delivery) and Colin’s inner turmoil and though at times it seems to be talking itself in circles, the film does provide an interesting glimpse at the inner workings of the macho persona and it’s not pretty. It shows a man who on the outside appears tough as nails but with a soft, easily breakable centre. It’s refreshing to see the soft side of masculinity and getting there is as difficult as getting through to a tough guy: it’s a little unpleasant and sometimes down right ugly.

Perhaps a sign of director Malcolm Venville’s inexperience, the film suffers from over wrought performances. Though it’s wonderful to see these actors (all of whom are spectacular in their own right) play off of each other, the performances often turn bombastic and though it’s clear they’re having a great time (Hurt in particular seems to be revelling in the joy of expletives) and are entertaining to watch, they add little to the story and they could have used a little reigning in.

44 Inch Chest is bound to make many uncomfortable and a few down right angry but even with its problems, there’s something joyous about seeing these many great actors come together for a film which is, essentially, a bunch of guys drinking and talking about relationships. There is so much gusto in these performances that it’s hard to not be entertained even when they add nothing to the story being told. 44 Inch Chest may not be the gangster film everyone expects it to be but it’s an entertaining surprise.

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Red (10 years ago) Reply

I'm suprised this gets an 8, from the trailer and review I'd have thought more a 6. Feels like I've seen this film many times before.


Marina (10 years ago) Reply

Honestly, my first reaction was that I didn't like it much but the more I think about the more I like this film. It's a talkie (big time) but there's some serious magic at work here.


Red (10 years ago) Reply

Cool, will keep an eye out for it :)


Bored of Cockney Clap-Trap (10 years ago) Reply

Ray Winstone playing a gangster? Surely not. YAWN.


Jean (10 years ago) Reply

I saw this movie, it is very disappointing. A great cast in-expertly directed by a new young advertising director. The advertising training shows, (just like a commercial everything is absurdly overstated). The plot is paper thin, and the director seems to struggle with narrative. Very poor.


Alice B (10 years ago) Reply

Bad, really really bad.

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