Fri 29 Jan 2010
I usually hate surprises. I’m the boring sort that wants to know in advance about things and usually have to schedule in time to be spontaneous on an otherwise mapped out and planned vacation. However, I love cinematic surprises and one of the biggest I’ve enjoyed in years is “44 Inch Chest”.
The tale of a jilted husband and his friends who take his wife’s lover hostage to enact justice, the film is a robust, foul mouthed, fun fest that shouldn’t be missed if you can at all help it. I was reminded of David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross”, as the writing is razor sharp and the actors delivering the lines couldn’t be more perfectly suited. There isn’t an actor out of place here and it’s the finest ensemble work I’ve seen in years.
Ray Winstone has been creating strong, impressive characters for years but it’s all been a little bit under the radar as far as mainstream cinema goes. While this is also a limited release, I can only hope the word gets out because missing out on Winstone’s performance would be like missing out on free Klondike bars. He runs the gamut of emotions as the character must decide what to do, whether he succumbs to being the brute he seems outwardly or if he can retain a sense of humanity and do the moral thing (or at least more moral by conventional standards).
Ian McShane is well known to “Deadwood” fans and doesn’t disappoint here. Words drip from his tongue like a fine wine. Each phrase is turned in such a way as to convey all manners of meaning behind the actual dialogue. John Hurt deserves a supporting actor nomination a year from now because his supremely foul mouthed (and that’s saying something in this group), bitter, old school portrayal might be the best role I’ll see all year. While the others in the group are capably skilled at being strongmen, Hurt makes it seem like he cast the mold.
Tom Wilkinson and Stephen Dillane more than round out the rest of the crew and only because of the script can one discern a real difference in strength of character. Each do a remarkable job of carving out their own niche in their inner circle and it’s a delight to watch them all play with and off one another. I’d also be remiss at not mentioning Joanne Whalley, who more than capably gives the audience not only an understanding of why Winstone is so hurt but also a glimpse into the two sides of the issue, since the script isn’t a two dimensional behemoth simply there to offer actors the opportunity to swear.
To that point however, should you have any issues with the more colourful language (the “u” seems appropriate given the British production), maybe this isn’t for you. A fellow film critic was hoping to do a radio piece on the film, however we joked about finding a bit of dialogue long enough to use that was family friendly – seeing as most of the phrases would sound more like morse code if edited for radio. I’m quite okay at things being a bit blue and halfway stopped noticing that every other word would get your mouth filled with soap if you tried using them as child. But to each their own.
The marvelous script comes from Louis Mellis and David Scinto, who also did the criminally under appreciated “Sexy Beast”. That’s another film to add to your rental queue if you haven’t seen it already. And director Malcolm Venville and his team do such a wonderful job of allowing the actors to deliver the excellent dialogue and not getting in their way, all the while providing superb production design, editing and cinematography.
“44 Inch Chest” is an astoundingly strong film, sure to remain among the ten best films released in 2010 and as such receives a 4.5 out of 5. Only a slight flagging in pace three quarters of the way through and the staged feeling regarding some of the set ups keep this from attaining a perfect rating. But if you want to see the performances that should receive truckloads of nominations a year from now, get out and see this film.