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Case Number 18499: Small Claims Court

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44 Inch Chest

Image Entertainment // 2010 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Marco Duran (Retired) // March 12th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Marco Duran enjoys being labeled "barrel-chested."

Editor's Note

Our review of 44 Inch Chest (Blu-Ray), published April 8th, 2010, is also available.

The Charge

Colin has a few good friends…

The Case

I get a great deal of pleasure by going to any local black box theater (a very small theater, usually in-the-round) and watching a play unfold before me. I am always assured that whatever the subject matter may be, however stilted the dialogue will sound, I will be getting a very personal performance from an actor or actress close enough to me that I can feel their breath. There is a lot to be said about being able to write a piece of work that can use such constraints to help creativity flourish, rather then being hindered. 44 Inch Chest, written by the Louis Mellis and David Scinto, the duo who wrote Sexy Beast, could have worked very well in one of those black boxes. The film does not limit itself to one space but it very easily could have, so simple is its focus and so massive are its characters.

44 Inch Chest is filled with meaty lines and chances for the actors to do some serious ACT-ing! As the film opens, the camera pans through wreckage in a house, the aftermath of some sort of storm or major brawl, while the strains of a '70s love anthem fills our ears. It finally settles upon the face of Colin Diamond (Ray Winstone, The Departed) prone upon the ground, surrounded by rubble and broken glass. He lies there unblinking, unmoving, (stunned? dead?) while the chorus of Harry Nilsson's "Without You" finally bursts through. He takes a deep breath, gets up and begins calling his friends on his cell phone.

His friends include a veritable who's who of British actors, all playing tough guys who I won't label gangsters, but who could have fit in well as the heavy in any film. Archie (Tom Wilkinson, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) lives with his mother. Meredith (Ian McShane, Deadwood) is a homosexual, snappy dressing, no nonsense, gabling man and the voice of reason among this circle of friends. Old Man Peanut (John Hurt, The Elephant Man) is the eldest in this bunch and as such is most old fashioned. "If we ever caught someone doing this in the old days," he says, "we used to beat him, tie him in a sack with an eel and a shark and toss him in the sea." The last friend is Mal (Stephen Dillane, Spy Games), he's the man with the plan and the van. After that initial phone call, these four friends spring into action. We next see them dragging a hapless waiter out of a restraint while a roomful of patrons looks on. Colin's wife confessed to infidelity; this waiter is the man she cheated with.

They lock the man, named only "Loverboy" (Melvil Poupand, Speed Racer) within a wardrobe in a dilapidated warehouse in a part of town with little to no traffic. This is where the majority of the movie takes place; where we get to really meet the friends, feel their camaraderie, hear them try to comfort Colin, see them beat and berate Loverboy and spout off phrases that are not short on profanities (the f-bomb is dropped 162 times in this 95 minute movie). The dialogue between these master thespians is electric; it is well written and they know just how to hit the inflections, the pauses and the menace to make the words sing. However, it can, at times, be difficult to slog through the thickness of the accents. Malcolm Venville, the director (back from a decade long hiatus after his debut film Silent Film), knows he has enough substance here to get away with some very deliberate flourishes of style. There is a scene where Meredith is retelling a story that takes a Reservoir Dogs approach of having the storyteller, in the midst of telling his story flash into the story itself without breaking stride. It shows the director's steady hand in knowing when style will diminish the tone and when it will add flavor. The film takes a few odd and surreal turns that some viewers may not be willing to go on, but I found them exciting and insightful into the psyche of the main character.

I can't really judge the video and audio on what I received. What I have is a screener that, every 15 minutes, turns the picture black and white with a watermark that kept reminding me the disc I was watching was for screening purposes only. What I could see was beautiful and clean. What I heard was clear. As for extras, again, they did not come with this disc. The list of extras that is supposed to come with this film looks to be good and complete. I will be purchasing this when it is released to hear the commentary by the director and see if some of my suspicions about what they were trying to say are true.

Off the bat I wanted to label this film a British version of Ocean's Eleven, not only for its top shelf ensemble but for its endless wit. The humor, like most English humor, is dry and cracking; the tone, darker. However the subject matter was far too serious for that to be considered a good analogy. Instead, I find no film to equate it with (the best I could come up with was Closer). Near the end, the friends talk amongst themselves in the hallway while Colin is having a private conversation with Loverboy. Old Man Peanut brings up the story of Samson and Delilah and how a woman can drag a man down, emasculate him and shatter his life so effortlessly. It makes a great analogy for Colin's situation throughout this film. Will he be able to find closure through revenge or will there be another way for him to be whole again? In the end, you will know. You will know Colin, you will know these men; they will be so close you'll feel their breath.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 93

Perp Profile

Studio: Image Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Crime
• Drama
• Gangster

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Featurette
• Epilogues
• Interview
• Trailer


• IMDb

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