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Now These Are Some Good Friends!

Movie Title: 44-inch Chest (2009/2010, U.S. release)
Spoilers: No

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Colin Diamond (Ray Winstone) has some very good friends. When his wife, Liz (Joanne Whalley), confesses that she’s done with the marriage and wants out, his loyal friends kidnap the “other” guy to help their friend feel better and have the opportunity for a most excruciating, skin-pealing revenge.

It has been said that if you have five good friends in your lifetime, then you should count yourself lucky because you are doing well. Colin has at least four good friends, but I still say he’s gosh-darn ahead of the most of us. Archie (Tom Wilkinson) is an honest man who seems normal enough. He cooks dinner and he spends a great deal of time with mom, or “Mum.” (Edna DorĂ©).

Meredith (Ian McShane) is a man who can gamble, and he has tremendous class. He loves his men that way, too. And, he looks good going anywhere. Hal (Stephen Dillane), well, he’s a little harder to describe. He’s just a friend helping out another friend. You get the impression that he can be an annoying gnat of a human being some of the time, but he’s still a friend.

Old Man Peanut (John Hurt) is the most brazen character among them. You don’t want to get him riled up. He may wear dentures, but he can verbally bite. And with the exception of Liz, everyone in this misogynistic make of a movie can curse up a storm—with a cult-like love for that word that women just love to hear used to describe their feminine region, the “c” word.

The English are just as big on hard drinks and cigarettes as any, especially in grief. Colin and the gang are drinking down bottles of hooch. The main man does so with an apparent-but-not-actual disregard for the strength of the substance that is supposed to kill his pain. In the end, only one thing will kill his pain. He has his mind set on that.

Loverboy (Melvil Poupaud) has been kidnapped and taken to a somewhat run-down building, to some place you’d expect to see in a 70s presentation of an old-style, once-fancy pad in New York City. It’s a bad day for Colin, but an especially bad day awaits one good-looking kid who foolishly crossed into the city limits of Payback-opolis.

Today’s a big day for Loverboy. Today he will learn more than he cared to know about intimacy. It takes much less than love to “get you off,” but love itself is what can get you killed (or make you wish you were deader than dead). One of the most memorable lines in the film begins with Colin’s one-on-one interrogation: “I bet she’s never farted in front of you, has she? Has she? No. That’s not romantic.”

44 Inch Chest is a broadside description for this chesty and well-acted English drama with its carefully constructed conclaves of comedy that are just strong enough to lighten the mood without damaging the suspense. The brief moments with the disorienting quality of a late-1980s cologne commercial are not as much flaws as they are bonus additions in the name of comic relief.

The coming and going drop-offs of eerie music and the riveting moments of tension that give way to lighthearted humor give this 90+ minute film of anger, imagery, and dry English comedy an unexpected – if profane – appeal.

(JH)

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Grade: B+ (3 ½ stars) Recommended!
Rated: R (for violence and language)
Director: Malcomb Venville
Summary: A jealous husband and his friends kidnap his wife's lover and plot to extract revenge.
Starring: Ray Winstone “Colin Diamond,” John Hurt “Old Man Peanut,” Ian McShane “Meredith,” Tom Wilkinson “Archie,” Joanne Whalley “Liz,” Dave Legeno “Brighton Billy”
Genre: Drama
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