Review: 44 Inch Chest
Colin Diamond (Ray Winstone) is a broken man, he is in an almost catatonic daze following the news his wife Liz (Joanne Whalley) is leaving him for another man. Together with his dubious circle of friends; he abducts the other man, a French waiter (Melvil Poupaud). The friends are an unlikely bunch of dubious characters, Meredith (Ian McShane) is stylish, sophisticated and gay. Mal (Stephen Dillane) looks and sounds like he has stepped straight out of a Guy Ritchie movie. Archie (Tom Wilkinson) is a middle-aged man who lives with his mother. Best of all Old Man Peanut (John Hurt) a haggard old man with a way with the English language that makes In Bruges sound like kids TV. The BBFC guidance says “There are over 40 clear uses of very strong language in the film. Some are comic and affectionate, others are sexual or aggressive or accompanied by menace and threat” Peanut gets more than his fair share!
The opening and to some extent the marketing implies we are going to get a violent revenge thriller. What the film actually does is explore the relationships and morals of the underworld characters. It actually has more in common wit more arty films typical British gangster movies. The film is basically a one set, one act play enriched with flashbacks. The use of the flashbacks varies, some are for comic effect others directly relate to the plot. Written by Louis Mellis and David Scinto the pair responsible for Sexy Beast. 44 inch Chest fails to live up to Sexy Beast but does share its excellent dialogue. All the leading cast put in great performances whether it be McShane’s arrogant but amusing self-confidence or Hurt’s nastiness but it is Winstone that takes centre stage giving a raw emotional performance. It’s his ability to hold back on the theatrics that makes the part work.
Far from the greatest example of a British Gangster film but a worthy example of the genre all the same for its originality and its great acting.
Three stars out of five.