44 Inch Chest
dir Malcolm Venville
scr Louis Mellis, David Scinto
prd Richard Brown, Steve Golin
with Ray Winstone, Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Stephen Dillane, Joanne Whalley, Melvil Poupaud, Steven Berkoff, Edna Dore, Dave Legeno, Ramon Christian
release UK 15.Jan.10
09/UK 1h34
44 Inch Chest
What will I do with you? Poupaud and Winstone

wilkinson hurt mcshane
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
44 Inch Chest With its limited setting, contained cast and existential plot, this feels more like a play than a film. So while it's well-acted by a first-rate cast, it also feels somewhat indulgent and oddly unsatisfying.

Colin (Winstone) is a complete wreck after his wife Liz (Whalley) leaves him. He's so distraught that his pals (Wilkinson, Hurt, McShane and Dillane) get together and kidnap the other man (Poupaud) so Colin can get his revenge. Now they're all in a disused house somewhere in London, as Colin's friends try to help him get control of his emotions. Flashbacks and fantasies ensue as Colin tries to figure out what to do, and whether an act of murderous violence will help soothe his soul.

The central theme provocatively tackles an issue rarely touched on in the film industry, which seems to think that sadistic death is the solution to most problems. As Colin goes through a wrenching internal journey, we are forced to think about the issues with him, although we never for a moment wonder what we'd do in his situation, since we'd never be in this situation in the first place.

Yes, it all feels rather contrived and grim. These five buddies clearly have a violent past life, so perhaps vicious bloodlust comes naturally to them. These are some of Britain's best performers, and they're terrific at spewing out this rude dialog. Winstone is almost comically overwrought, and contrasts hilariously with Hurt's foul-mouthed grouch, McShane's preening gent, Dillane's steely tough guy and Wilkinson's matter-of-fact mama's boy. All of them are arch and tetchy, balanced nicely by Whalley's raw honesty and a startling, wordless turn from Poupaud.

Strangely, director Venville shoots this in a rather non-cinematic way, with static two-shots that rarely let us see the whole room and a few random side sequences (like a precis of Cecil B DeMille's Samson and Delilah). And the confined space leaves the film feeling like it has nowhere to go. The only respites are flashbacks that fill in story, plus bizarre moments of surrealism as Colin grapples with his decision. In the end, it's an interesting experiment, but only the acting makes it worth a look.

cert 18 themes, very strong language, violence, innuendo 12.Oct.09 lff

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall