31 May 2010 | gradyharp
Crises: An Actor's Film
44 INCH CHEST is a very dark, brooding, cynical, fairly static stagey film that allows a platform for some of England's finest actors a tour de force in roles they likely chose because of the opportunity to work together. Aside from a few out shots (scenes where the audience is allowed a bit more information about he background of the story and its characters) this film feel like a stage play, so finely wrought is the dialogue and the pacing of the piece. For those who saw and appreciated SEXY BEAST (also written by Louis Mellis and David Scinto and using some of the same actors), this film will reward. For those easily offended by foul language and physical violence this may be a film to pass.
Aging gangster Colin Diamond (Ray Winstone) is informed that his wife of 21 years Liz (Joanne Whaley), is leaving him and in complete disbelief and denial his emotions gradually unfurl into violence: he must discover the name of the lover. After sever beatings Liz tells him and we jump to a scene where Colin and his fellow crime friends are kidnapping the waiter Loverboy (Melvil Poupaud, whose intensity as an actor commands our attention despite his lack of dialogue) in a van. Loverboy is taken to a filthy room, beaten (we suppose) and is locked in a chest awaiting Colin's decision on how to handle the lad. Colin's friends include the mamma's boy Archie (Tom Wilkinson), the seemingly suave Mal (Stephen Dillane), the frankly gay Meredith (Ian McShane), and the evil Old Man Peanut (John Hurt): oddly enough the only background we know of these crooks is through flashback scenes with Archie caring for this mum (Edna Doré) and Meredith taking a call during a assignation with a nude lad on the sofa (Ramon Christian). The point the friends are trying to make is that Colin is losing his grip on life because of the devastation and humiliation of being betrayed by his adulterous wife. They urge Colin to kill both Loverboy and Liz, make a coin toss to decide whether the reluctant Colin kills or lets them go, and when the toss comes up with a thumbs down decision, Colin is left alone with Loverboy tied to a chair to discuss the future. How this discussion proceeds and how Colin arrives at his decision on how to complete this cycle is the bulk of the story.
So not much happens here with a script that is as foul as dirt and as powerful as a corpse- crushing machine - except the ability of this sterling crew of actors to bring to life characters who while they are terrifying on one level, show incredible support for their abused friend on the other level. It is a taut actors' piece, beautifully executed by actors and director Malcolm Venville. Not for the faint of heart but definitely for those who relish superb theatrics!