Saturday, May 01, 2010

44-inch Chest: Grade B

44 Inch Chest (2009)
Ray Winstone, Tom Wilkinson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Joanne Whalley; Director Malcolm Venville.

This set-bound talking head drama features some extremely fine acting and engaging (though profane), dialog that sounds like Mamet or even Beckett. Working class, aging British losers try to convince their buddy (Winstone) to kill the young man who cuckolded him. The victim is tied to a chair with a bag over his head, just like in Reservoir Dogs, and the allusions to that film are strong.

The men discuss, rant, and digress, with the director being forced to move the pace along with interesting cuts, time-slices, and even a gratuitous insertion of a clip from the old Sampson and Delilah movie. The desperate directorial need to relieve the claustrophobia of the set reminded me of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966), and it doesn’t quite work in either movie, so you are left with the look and feel of a stage play.

There is a lack of action and story, a lack of character development, and an overabundance of words, but still the movie is well worth watching to enjoy the excellent acting and directing. The sound track is engaging and the set is very good. Cinematography is varied and interesting but the sepia palette gets old (a problem with having only one set). There is nothing new here, but great acting can redeem just about anything.

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