44 Inch Chest

Time Out New York Project: Issue #748, January 28–February 3, 2010

★★☆☆☆

Dir. Malcolm Venville. 2009. R. 95mins. John Hurt, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Melvil Poupaud.

You couldn’t ask for a more delicious setup: Colin Diamond (Winstone) has just discovered that his wife (Joanne Whalley) has been getting it on with a sexy French waiter (Poupaud). His pals (Hurt, McShane, Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Dillane) kidnap the poor bastard and lock him in a clothes cabinet — that eponymous, metaphorically charged chest — to await Colin’s retribution. But the cast to die for is almost entirely wasted in this machismo-marinated slab of Brit-crime nastiness.

It’s not the words, courtesy of Sexy Beast writers Louis Mellis and David Scinto, so much as the pedestrian look that first-time director Malcolm Venville has settled for. Frame by frame, the camera always seems to be in the wrong place to effectively capture the mostly single-set action, which has a habit of killing the performers’ respective rhythms. There are surface pleasures inherent in watching Ian McShane play gay (“What I do with my nine-and-a-half is no concern of yours,” he quips) or listening to John Hurt — who bears the sidesplitting sobriquet Old Man Peanut — profanely dissect Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah. But they quickly dissipate due to the leaden imagery and editing. Even Winstone’s teary-eyed soul-searching — the actor could play this tortured role in his sleep — barely registers. Like everyone else, he’s just striking aggressive poses with no purpose.—Keith Uhlich



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