Malcolm Venville’s directorial debut is a 95-minute meditation on modern masculinity, wrapped in a package of superfluous stylistic glitches. Since wealthy white men have been cinematically contemplating the illusory complexity of their existence since the silent era, this ground has not merely been well-trodden, but blacktopped into a 12-lane expressway. The impressive cast of Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson, and Stephen Dillane utilize the carpool lane as they attempt to expand one man’s agonized reaction to his wife’s infidelity into a meaningful exploration of the interplay between clemency and vengeance.
Winstone occupies the driver’s seat as Colin Diamond, the cuckolded husband, whose reaction to his wife’s announcement that she has been having an affair is the essence of innovation -- he calls her a slut (and worse) and punches her repeatedly in the mouth. When Diamond’s cronies are alerted to the situation, they corral the perpetrator of the affair, a handsome young waiter, and confine him to a cupboard until poor Colin can collect himself long enough to enact the necessary vengeance on the lad. A pseudo-trial ensues, as Colin’s chums casually insist that the situation calls for murder, while Colin weeps and wallows in copious doses of self-pity, often expressed in tedious, tearful monologues wherein he repeatedly wonders whether he might have loved his wife too much. Although the actors and filmmakers do an admirable job of trying to ratchet up the tension, their efforts are diffused by the fact that the screenwriters have somehow forgotten to entice us to care about the main character, who is never portrayed as anything but a sobbing, self-indulgent sap. When he bemoans having to tell his children about the situation, the audience is surprised to learn that he has children at all, since they have never been mentioned before. In fact, details about all of the characters are few and far between. They apparently have no responsibilities in the real world, allowing them to spend days on end lounging around an abandoned apartment building, sucking down cigarettes and ruminating about a man’s right to violence.
The film is watchable thanks to splendid performances by McShane, as a gay lothario who has inexorably severed all of his emotional attachments, and Hurt, who repeatedly commits scene larceny as the glowering patriarch of the group who sporadically bursts forth with lyrical rants of profanity. But the central conflict of 44 Inch Chest never threatens to captivate the audience, making it another forgettable flash of traffic on the very crowded highway of films that have wasted our time trying to complicate the utterly simplistic nature of machismo.
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- Released: 2009
- Review: Malcolm Venville’s directorial debut is a 95-minute meditation on modern masculinity, wrapped in a package of superfluous stylistic glitches. Since wealthy white men have been cinematically contemplating the illusory complexity of their existence since the… (more)
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