162 F-words here - and we don't mean 'fine,' 'flair,' 'finesse'

Posted: February 05, 2010

Like Reservoir Dogs with a Cockney bark - but without Quentin Tarantino's filmmaking chops - the British entry 44 Inch Chest offers a tough-talking meditation on jealousy and marital betrayal. Its cast is stellar - Stephen Dillane, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Tom Wilkinson, and, at the center of it all, a broke-down bad man, Ray Winstone.

But its script, from David Scinto and Louis Mellis, the cowriters of Sexy Beast, is nothing more than a heavy rotation of expletives and redundant riffing. (The F-bomb is dropped 162 times, according to one count on the Web.) The whole thing feels like middle-period Mamet with English accents, and not much to say.

The premise: Winstone is Colin Diamond, a temperamental bloke who discovers his wife (Joanne Whalley), unhappy in her marriage, has been cheating on him. So what does he do? He assembles his mates, all of whom seem to have watched one too many British crime movies, and they abduct the loverboy, a Frenchman working in a London restaurant.

For most of 44 Inch Chest's running time, then, Diamond and his crew gnaw and jaw, twitch and cuss, circling the adulterer, and torturing him, as he sits trembling, a hood over his head, tied to a chair. And this takes place in a pretty much bare room, in an abandoned building, in an empty stretch of town.

Music video director Malcolm Venville whooshes the camera around, jump-cutting and flashbacking, but his hyperactive visuals really serve only to draw attention to, not away from, the flimsy, one-note aspect of the screenplay.

As the burly cuckold, Winstone blubbers and rages, and Hurt (with false teeth that amusingly thwart his speechifying) and McShane, playing a cool gay gangster, are fun to watch. But ultimately, 44 Inch Chest has very little on its mind.

P.S. - That said, Hurt does offer a wonderfully colorful synopsis of the Victor Mature-Hedy Lamarr togas-and-torment classic Samson and Delilah, intercut with footage from Cecil B. DeMille's 1949 extravaganza. Can't remember what brings this cinema-appreciation moment on, but in the thick of all of 44 Inch Chest's theatrical jabbering, the moment is, well, appreciated.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/

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