44 Inch Chest (2009)
Winstone's Diamond Beast
I wouldn't give her the pickings out of my handkerchief - Old Man Peanut
Ray Winstone is the sort of actor who could make reading the telephone directory and intense experience, he can deliver a range of emotion be it through a look or a slight change of tone, he can be aggressive and frightening one second and then pitiful the next. As such a movie with Ray Winstone in is usually worth a watch and in the case of "44 Inch Chest" you also get John Hurt, Ian McShane, Tom Wilkinson and Stephen Dillane plus Joanne Whalley making the talent on show exciting. If that wasn't enough "44 Inch Chest" comes from the writing partnership of Louis Mellis and David Scinto who had previously given us the brilliant "Sexy Beast" another Ray Winstone movie. But here is the thing, for the first half of "44 Inch Chest" it is both different and intense, shocking and disturbing but then it becomes simply weird, in fact make that too weird and no matter how entertaining the performances are the weirdness ruins what could have been another brilliant movie.
After his wife Liz tells (Joanne Whalley - Mother's Boys) him she is leaving him for another man, Colin Diamond (Ray Winstone - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) is left shattered and angry. But his friends come to his assistance and insist that the only way he can get over these feelings and betrayal is to get revenge. And so having kidnapped Liz's French lover they hold him hostage in a boarded up old house whilst they encourage and goad Colin into restoring his manhood and pride by killing him. But still in pieces over Liz leaving him Colin wrestles with what he should do, follow his heart and murder loverboy or do the sensible thing and let him go.
"44 Inch Chest" starts in such a way it sets the bar very high for what is to follow as we witness the destruction of a home, a dog cowering beneath a sofa and Colin lying motionless on the floor between the shards of broken coffee table, whilst "Without You" plays on the stereo. It grabs your attention immediately and continues to do so after a series of scenes end up with Colin and his friends in a boarded up old house with a man they have kidnapped stuffed in a wardrobe. Don't worry as this all makes sense, with a few flashbacks we discover that Liz has left Colin for a younger man, the man who happens to be stuffed in the wardrobe and the destruction is from Colin getting violent with Liz when she tells him she is going.
Now that is just the set up and for the first half of the movie it is all about the conflict which Colin faces as his friends basically goad him into taking action and by action we all know I am on about killing his young replacement. We watch as they verbally abuse him, trying to bring him out of his state of shock as he can't believe that his life has been ripped from him. And thanks to the talented performance of Winstone you can feel that sense of being lost but also that emotional conflict where he would love nothing more than to kill loverboy but then if he did he would most certainly never get Liz back. It's an intense, expletive filled first half where the bombardment of abuse and goading is quite shocking, trust me I though the swearing in "Sexy Beast" was shocking, it's nothing compared to what you hear in "44 Inch Chest".
This first half of "44 Inch Chest" is very much an actors piece as in this is not about action or locations this is about a group of men in one room and the way they interact, tell old stories and make jibes at each other. It is about the way the spit with venom the dialogue, giving it greater meaning by really becoming their characters and whilst shocking it is wonderful to watch. To put it simply it is an intense experience thanks to great performances from all the cast especially Winstone, McShane and the surprising John Hurt who comes across like a long lost Kray brother.
But whilst all of this is good it then goes seriously wrong for the second half. I won't go into detail other than to say that loverboy is dragged out of the wardrobe and Colin is left on his own to confront him and what we watch is simply too friggin' weird and often out of style with the first half. Ironically Winstone's intensity is just as good if not better in this second half but because the storyline ends up becoming something which borders on the surreal it spoils things.
What this all boils down to is that watching "44 Inch Chest" purely for the acting you won't be disappointed, it is an intense experience with brilliant and memorable performances coming from all the cast especially Ray Winstone and John Hurt. But as for the actual storyline, well the chances are the first half will have you on the edge of your seat only for you to end up asking WTF during the second half.
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