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44 Inch Chest(2009)
Colin Diamond discovers that his wife of twenty years is having an affair with a good-looking younger man. When his motley group of friends decide to kidnap the young man, Colin must wrestle with his conscience.
For more about 44 Inch Chest and the 44 Inch Chest Blu-ray release, see 44 Inch Chest Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on April 19, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson, Joanne Whalley, Stephen Dillane
Director: Malcolm Venville
» See full cast & crew
44 Inch Chest Blu-ray Review
“It’s times like this you find out who you are…”
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, April 19, 2010
44 Inch Chest is not the film I expected to see when I first laid eyes on this Blu-ray release's cover art. Here we have "From the Writers of Sexy Beast," a tagline that reads "The Measure of Revenge," and a cast that includes Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson, Ian McShane, and Stephen Dillane—a veritable who's who of the pulpy British gangster genre. But Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels this ain't. There will be viewers, blind buyers perhaps, who will feel seriously misled. No guns are fired, there are no hold-ups or heists, the closest we get to a car chase is a minivan speeding down an alleyway, and the revenge mentioned in the tagline turns out to be a dud bottlerocket (figuratively, not literally). What we have, instead, is an East End ditty on masculinity, jealousy, and morality, theatrically staged—the action, if you can call it that, largely takes place in a single dingy room—and driven by coarse-as-sandpaper dialogue that's more David Mamet than Guy Ritchie. Think psychological stage play rather than balls-out British crime caper. The change of pace is refreshing—initially, at least—but 44 Inch Chest eventually gets bogged down by talking heads and bleeding hearts.
The only pitch-perfect moment of the film is the opening scene, which shows the aftermath of some yet to be identified physical struggle and emotional shitstorm. First-time director Malcolm Venville's camera rests on the detritus of the event—shattered glass on a tile floor, the cracked screen of a plasma TV, a poodle hiding under a couch, looking terrified—before dollying slowly around a corner, where garage owner and sometime gangster Colin Diamond (Ray Winstone) is lying on his back, his eyes brimming with tears as he listens to Harry Nilsson's "Without You" on repeat. It's suddenly clear what has happened—a breakup gone seriously bad. It turns out that his wife of twenty one years, Liz (Joanne Whalley), has been secretly seeing a French waiter— played taciturnly by A Christmas Story's Melvil Poupaud—known in the film only as "Loverboy." When they find out about the cuckoldry, Colin's seedy gangster friends kidnap Loverboy and chuck him in a wardrobe in an abandoned house, where Colin is brought to wreak his husbandly revenge. The remainder of the film has Colin—alternately and sometimes simultaneously distraught, hyperventilating, wounded, drunk, and outright crazy—weighing the pros and cons of killing the adulterer. This is a tedious, brain-draining process, both for Colin—who even starts hallucinating his own delusions—and, cinematically, for us.
He's goaded on, at least, by some crackling characters who fit neatly in stock British gangster stereotypes but avoid cliché thanks to the specificity of Louis Mellis and David Scinto's screenplay. Tom Wilkinson is Archie, the nicest of the motley crew, a sympathetic middle-aged tough who still lives with his mum. Stephen Dillane is more volatile as the appropriately named Mal, ever urging Colin on to violence. The scene stealers here, though, are Ian McShane and John Hurt, the former playing a gay gangster who purrs suavely about his personal preference for hedonism over attachment, while the latter is Old Man Peanut, an old school brute who spews hate-filled invectives laden with language that's decidedly unfit to print. On a sentence level, the dialogue is sharp and astringent, and Hurt, in particular, seems to relish his role, his dentures gnawing the scenery, his mouth constantly filled with malice. As a whole, though, the crassness of it all seems showy, masturbatory even, and the script feels unpolished and unfocused, filled with unnecessary asides and bizarre non sequiturs. At one point, Old Man Peanut even rehashes the story of Sampson and Delilah for us—illustrated with clips from Cecil B. Demille's version of the tale—in case we've otherwise failed to locate the film's thematic center.
Yes, 44 Inch Chest is essentially about how a woman can emotionally emasculate a man, turning him into a blubbering, spineless mess. If it sounds borderline misogynistic, it is. The film purports to be an incisive psychological exploration of jealousy, forgiveness, and what it means to be a man, but what comes through is the spite directed at Liz, in particular, and women, in general. I think (and hope) we can all recognize that Old Man Peanut is in the wrong when he says, "Good for you, son," after Colin confesses to punching Liz repeatedly in the face— he explicitly details how her head bounced off of the door frame—but that doesn't make the moment any less malicious, especially when we see it play out in flashback. And while the word "cunt" gets tossed around quite frequently in British gangster films—it is, after all, a part of the vernacular—it's used excessively here, almost becoming a mantra for hatefulness. There's a thin line between representing misogyny onscreen and actually encouraging it, and 44 Inch Chest crosses that line a little too often for my tastes. There's some terrific acting going on here, but ultimately there's not much meaning in the film's sound and fury. Those looking for an action-filled spree will be doubly disappointed by the anti-climax of an ending.
44 Inch Chest Blu-ray, Video Quality
Image Entertainment brings 44 Inch Chest stateside to Blu-ray with an impressive-for- what-it-is 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer, framed in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image is intentionally bleak and dingy—the whole movie is cast in a dismal grayish brown—but the lack of color belies an otherwise decently appointed picture. Clarity is quite strong throughout, with the frequent close-ups of Colin displaying minute, facial feature details, from the tiniest beads of sweat on his brow to the definition of each hair in his scraggly beard. 1080p doesn't really do the art direction any favors—the set really looks like a set—but it's tight and crisp all the same. Given the restrained color scheme and somewhat weak contrast, there's little "pop" or presence to the image, even though black levels are deep and very rarely crush any detail. I popped in a DVD screener for comparison, and the Blu-ray handily beats it, but this is by no means a wowing high definition experience. The cinematography is restrained and non-showy, making sure the dialogue remains the focus. Grain is fine, only spiking a handful of times, and though the movie was shot on film, it has a certain video-esque quality that I can't quite put my finger on. I think it has to do with lighting, mostly. I didn't notice any compression-related distractions or other mishaps or mishandlings.
44 Inch Chest Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Like the cinematography, the film's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is extremely reserved, enhancing the story's this could easily be a stage play vibe. Obviously, the dialogue is the most important element here, and it's handled flawlessly, broadcast up front and center with clarity and strength. Angelo Badalamenti and Massive Attack's score is quiet and complementary, never overpowering the proceedings but hanging back to subtly underscore Colin's emotions. The music is bled into the rear channels quite often, but otherwise there's little use of the surrounds, except for some understated ambience and two, maybe three cross-channel effects, like passing cars and the spin of a 2-pence coin on a hardwood floor. The track never gets a chance to outright roar, but bass does creep in to accentuate the tension at times, and the music has plenty of depth and detail. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are available in easy-to-read white lettering.
44 Inch Chest Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary with Director Malcolm Venville
First-time feature helmer Malcolm Venville—who cut his teeth on commercials, which he considers the most practical form of film school—dishes about his experience working on 44 Inch Chest, covering all the usual topics of conversation.
Featurette (SD, 15:20)
Complementing Venville's commentary is a solid making-of documentary/promo piece, which features all of the principal actors discussing their characters, the thoughts of the director and producers, and plenty of behind-the-scenes footage.
Epilogues (SD, 4:40)
An interesting inclusion. All of the principal male actors—with the exception of Ray Winstone— deliver short monologues about the fates of their characters. Unsurprisingly, John Hurt's is the best, as Old Man Peanut speaks from beyond the grave Spoon River Anthology-style and tells us how he faced down death.
Interview with Malcom Venville (SD, 22:56)
Director Malcolm Venville talks about his career in commercials, his main influences—Rear Window and The Singing Detective—and gives his thoughts about 44 Inch Chest's story and script.
Trailer (SD, 1:51)
44 Inch Chest Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
44 Inch Chest is not at all what I expected, and while it's occasionally intense as an experiment in psychological storytelling—and snake-tongued language—the results of the experiment are unfulfilling and inconclusive. Those interested in seeing the five lead actors play off of one another may want to give this one a rental, but viewers looking for the latest, greatest British gangland caper should turn their attentions elsewhere.
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44 Inch Chest Blu-ray, News and Updates
• 44 Inch Chest Blu-ray Detailed - April 6, 2010
Image Entertainment has announced the release details for 44 Inch Chest, which is scheduled to come out on Blu-ray on April 20. 44 Inch Chest is a crime thriller from the writers of Sexy Beast, starring Ray Winstone and an all-star British cast, including John ...
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