The Sharp, Nasty 44 Inch Chest


A quintet of pathetic pals are sized up in this often-sharp, nasty exposé of masculinity, written by Sexy Beast scripters Louis Mellis and David Scinto, reuniting them with that film’s Ray Winstone and Ian McShane. Married for 21 years, Colin (Winstone) is told by wife Liz (Joanne Whalley) that she’s leaving him; his piggy body quaking with rage, Colin brutalizes his spouse (mostly told rather than shown) and assembles his mates—gay smoothie Meredith (McShane), still-living-with-Mum Archie (Tom Wilkinson), slow-burn psycho Mal (Stephen Dillane), and sclerotic old coot Peanut (John Hurt)—to kidnap and terrorize the French waiter (Melvil Poupaud) Liz has fallen for. With each “cunt” and declension of “fuck” spewed, with every threat of torture directed at their mute, bloodied captive, self-pitying, grief-deranged Colin and his crew further reveal their impotence, desperation, and terror of women (suave Meredith may be untainted by hetero shortcomings, but has pathologies of his own). As in Sexy Beast, Mellis and Scinto’s rhythmically aggressive dialogue becomes aria-like. But first-time director Malcolm Venville lacks the visual flair of Sexy Beast‘s Jonathan Glazer—a deficit that, combined with 44 Inch Chest‘s wobbly final act, comes dangerously close to erasing the film’s uninhibited look at the measure of a man.