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44 Inch Chest (2010)

Release date 29 Jan 2010
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Audience Reviews

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Mohammed 2010-01-29 11:07:54
WE BEGIN in arresting style, tracking through a suburban home until it finally rests on a close-up of Colin (Ray Winstone), who is lying on the floor amid broken chairs, shattered glass and a smashed table. The stereo plays Harry Nilsson's self-pitying anthem Without You. When it finally ends, Colin immediately presses replay.

This is the closest thing to peace that you'll experience for the next 90-odd minutes, because 44 Inch Chest is a film which bristles with elemental machismo. The swearing tops the record previously set by Martin Scorsese's Casino – hardly surprising since the script is by Louis Mellis and David Scinto, the same partnership behind Sexy Beast.

Col's marriage to Liz (Joanne Whalley) has spectacularly combusted into a huge domestic fight after she reveals that she has been having an affair with a young French waiter (Melvil Poupaud) and wants out. Col rounds up his four best friends to kidnap the lover. There's the flamboyant gay gambler Meredith (Ian McShane); the clenched fist that is Mal (Stephen Dillane), who has brawn but little brain; Old Man Peanut (John Hurt, with the most dreadful veneers since Mr Ed), a bilious old git who is nostalgic for the good old days; and Archie (Tom Wilkinson), Colin's best friend, who is good to his mum, does a lovely mulligatawny soup and, like the others, is keen to kill the boyfriend and call it a night.

44 Inch Chest was originally intended as a play and, with its spare sets and five-way chitchat, the film hasn't done enough to distance itself from its theatrical origins. Paced with the measured menace of Harold Pinter and seasoned with the creative profanity of his disciple, David Mamet, 44 Inch Chest spends a lot of time in one room with blokey chat about sex, gambling, and dislike of women.

Colin is perhaps the least interesting man in the room, and our attentions fly to the stronger presences, especially McShane, who monologues a very funny fantasy about Oliver Reed that promises a payoff that never arrives. Having set up such strong dynamics, sharp exchanges and commanding performances, this psychodrama feels as if it is all gong and no dinner.
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