44 Inch Chest - Directed by Malcolm Venville, written by Louis Mellis and David Scinto, starring Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Stephen Dillane, and Tom Wilkinson - Rated R (Available on Blu-ray and DVD)
This movie had some real potential, but it ended up forgettable.
When I first read about this film I was nearly salivating: the cast was unbelievable and it was written by the writers behind Sexy Beast. Did it live up to my expectations? Not really. This is not to say that 44 Inch Chest is a terrible movie, it's just not what I was expecting.
The film is about Colin Diamond, a recently cuckolded man who, with four of his friends, has to decide whether or not to kill his wife's new lover. I suppose I should have known this wasn't going to be Sexy Beast part two from this setup alone. This film is much more pyschological (though Sexy Beast does have some psychological elements). This may be considered a SPOILER, but it turns out that this is one of those films where you're not sure what it real and what isn't. Personally, I always go with the straightforward explanation. If something happens on screen, then it really did happen...unless there is a strong suggestion that reality is a bit off. There are scenes that are definitely in Colin's head in this one, but I think it's up to the viewer if the rest of the film is.
The reason it's possible to interpret the film in different ways is because Colin is an absolute mess. The film introduces this very well. The opening scene slowly shows the aftermath of a fight in Colin's living room. The camera works its way through the destruction as "Without You" by Harry Nilsson plays. The camera comes to a stop on Ray Winstone laying on the ground, a blank stare on his face. Then Colin is collected by his friends, who then kidnap his wife's lover, and place him inside an armoir (or chest, if you will) in what looks like some kind of safe house. The set up is very Hitchcockian and has a play-like quality to it as well. That may be why I can see the more psychological side.
In or outside of Colin's head, whichever you prefer, there are other characters and they play off of each other quite well. Tom Wilkinson seems to be the voice of reason in the group. Stephen Dillane plays a slightly untrustworthy friend (the weakest character of the group in my opinion). Ian McShane is the calm, charismatic, and lucky member of the group. And John Hurt is the cranky elder who expects bold action from Colin.
John Hurt is definitely the best part of the film. I could listen to his outbursts for an entire film. His back and forth with every character is hilarious. McShane is right there with him, though. He plays cool as good as anyone. His story of winning a sizable amount at a casino is my favorite scene in the film. Wilkinson does a fine job, but as the voice of reason, he doesn't get anything interesting to say or do, which is very unfortunate. I would go so far to say that he is wasted in this film.
Winstone is very convincing in this. He plays an emotionally destroyed man to perfection. It's not just outbursts and fake sobbing. It's in the facial expressions. You can see the anguish in his eyes in every scene. The film hinges on his performance and he carries it well.
The problem here is that the story is a bit boring. I guess the writers thought of this as well because the film is filled with anecdotes. It seems every character gets their own little side story to tell. That's fine, and the stories are interesting, but the problem is that the character developing side stories were far more entertaining than the main plot. I wish this film was just about the day to day workings of this group. I don't call them a gang because I'm not sure if they are a gang. It is obvious they have a history together, but a history of what? And Colin, aside from being a distraught husband, has no discernible characteristics. He's a very boring character.
As strange as it may sound, I wish this film had been more like a typical, unoriginal gangster movie. Make it about a heist or something. It can still be a character driven film without the adultery plot. Maybe that takes away the possibility of a theory or two about the movie but so be it. I don't think that this movie earns a dissection.
So the film tries to be deep. Some viewers may buy into it, but I didn't. With this cast the film really should have had a lighter tone or a sharper focus on a more interesting character. Instead, it's a passable effort with a very good moment or two. I'll be recommending Sexy Beast to people for the rest of my life, I'll probably forget what 44 Inch Chest was about by the end of the year.