The intriguingly titled 44 Inch Chest smashed me in the face from all sides as the stunning cast took me on a dodgem car ride of emotions from start to finish that left me in complete awe of what I saw. From the writers of Sexy Beast, Louis Mellis & David Scinto, and debut director Malcolm Menville, I was thinking 44″ was going to be a London gangster film in same vain as Sexy beast but it was however a completely original film about male emotions, relationships and heartbroken love that had to deliver strong character performances to pull it off and it had the cast to do so.
The basic story is about Colin (Winstone) who finds out his wife Liz ( Joanne Whalley) is leaving him for another man and so being the close friends they are Colin’s cockney family pals, Peanut (Hurt), Meredith (McShane) Archie (Wilkinson ) and Mal (Stephen Dillane) kidnap the offending “Other man” known as Loverboy (Melville Poupaud) and take him to their run down hideaway in the East end and here the film focuses on Colin’s state of mind wanting to kill him but having to deal with his broken heart and broken mind at the same time while his pals raise the tension through verbal abuse directed at Loverboy at every possible moment as his time to live ticks away.
The film is nicely broken up from the intense tension and claustrophobia in this lone room as Colin requests his mates to leave the room to be alone with Loverboy and we follow the fantastic quick fire foul mouthed conversations between Peanut, Meredith, Archie and Mal passing the time with brilliant banter and stories that added much needed humour whilst in the next room Colin tries to come to terms with why Liz left him and wanting to kill Loverboy, it’s a brilliant interchange of situations and emotions.
It’s tense, it’s darkly funny and it’s in my opinion a great film to watch unfold. The performances from the guys are strong and genuine, Winstone shows some incredible moments as a broken man with a brilliant monologue expressing his feelings to Loverboy that is just mesmerizing. John Hurt was superb as the puritan old man Peanut who is an old school cockney. Tom Wilkinson was the anchor to the lads keeping some sort of order and was as always enjoyable to watch. Stephen Dillane was excellent as the short leashed terrier and Ian McShane was a calmly ominous homosexual that stole most of scenes with his bravado and hilarious quips, one of which featured an excellent cameo from Steven Berkoff. All of them added to a very believable, enjoyable and understated film.
Then of course there is the swearing, If you don’t like swearing then your not going to find much in the film you will like as 44 inch chest has more swear words than most films i’ve seen, put together! But for me the swearing works as it fits the characters and the situation as the swearing takes over from the lack of shown physical violence as the predominant form of attack on Loverboy and to each other at times that makes it more psychological in it’s assault. Maybe over used at times throughout the film the c*** word makes it shocking enough but definitely memorable as hearing John Hurt saying it with such vigor and realism after years of acting sophistication makes 44 Inch Chest a real unique and aquired taste.
Overall I loved it, I believe Winstone and co deserve so much praise for their performances for such a simple concept and almost stage play like feel that examined damaged masculinity and male friendships which never ventured away from that emotional side of the story as Colin struggles to understand what the hell happened in his marriage and also dealing with taking a persons life at the same time.
44 Inch Chest is out in cinemas on 15th January. Go see it!