'44 Inch Chest': a talky, tawdry British revenge melodrama
"44 Inch Chest" is a talky thriller starring Ray Winstone as a cuckolded man who wants to kill his wife's lover.
Special to The Seattle Times
'44 Inch Chest,' with Ray Winstone, Joanne Whalley, Stephen Dillane, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson, Ian McShane, Melvil Poupaud. Directed by Malcolm Venville, from a screenplay by Louis Mellis and David Scinto. 90 minutes. Rated R for pervasive strong language. Varsity; see Page 15.
Harry Nilsson and Cecil B. DeMille — together for the first time.
That's the chief attraction of "44 Inch Chest," a tawdry British revenge melodrama that begins with Nilsson singing "Without You" and includes a condensed version of DeMille's early-1950s biblical epic, "Samson and Delilah," complete with Hedy Lamarr giving Victor Mature a lethal haircut.
These pop-culture icons have apparently been recruited to add a mythic dimension to a slender story about a vulnerable London man, Colin Diamond (Ray Winstone), whose wife, Liz (Joanne Whalley), has just announced that she's found someone new.
While Colin indulges in an orgy of self-pity, obsessively playing the Nilsson song and trashing his apartment, his friends, including Archie (Tom Wilkinson) and Mal (Stephen Dillane), try to calm the situation. A more judgmental pal, Old Man Peanut (John Hurt), narrates the DeMille clips, pumps up the parallels to Colin's current situation, and lets loose a homophobic rant aimed at Meredith (Ian McShane). This launches the latter into a spirited defense of male-male sex that has little to do with love.
Before they're all talked out (and this is a very talky film), they round up the young French- restaurant waiter (Melvil Poupaud) who has captured Liz's interest. Taunting him with shouts of "Lover boy," they tie his hands, cover his head with a bag and make a lot of threats.
This curious narrative was dreamed up by Louis Mellis and David Scinto, the screenwriting team behind the superior "Sexy Beast," which also starred Winstone and McShane. Evidently they wanted to work together again, but that may not be quite enough reason for the audience.
The frequently profane dialogue suggests David Mamet on an off-night (so does Malcolm Venville's claustrophobia-inducing direction), though the first-rate cast works hard.
Hurt stands out, embracing the vulgarity of a deeply bitter and frustrated man. You can't help wondering what his story is, and where the rest of it went.
John Hartl: firstname.lastname@example.org
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