May 02, 2010

MOVIES: 44 Inch Chest (Malcolm Venville, 2009/US 2010)

There's not much to 44 Inch Chest, really. Five guys sit in a room, waiting for one of their group to decide the fate of a sixth. But when the five guys are Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Stephen Dillane, John Hurt, and Tom Wilkinson, you don't really need much more than that to hold my attention.

Winstone's wife (Joanne Whalley) has been cheating on him, and he and his associates have kidnapped her young lover; we spend most of the movie in the dilapidated flat where they encourage a devastated Winstone to take action and do what must be done.

The movie's written by Louis Mellis and David Scinto, who also wrote Sexy Beast, so the dialogue is very entertaining. Nearly ever actor gets at least one spectacular speech -- McShane clarifying how his approach to sex and romance differs from Winstone's; Hurt telling the story of Samson and Delilah, illustrated by scenes from the Victor Mature film; Winstone explaining to their prisoner what it takes to make a marriage work -- and the interplay among them is magnificent; they're completely believable as a group of old friends.

There are some fantasy/nightmare sequences that don't quite work, and the last 20 minutes of the movie is a letdown compared to the first hour. But that first hour is so damned good that the movie is absolutely worth catching on DVD or cable.

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