44 Inch Chest Review: Love Is A Four Letter Word
When it comes to Ray Winstone, there’s often much divided opinion. On one hand, he’s a lovable Laaandan rogue who’s been in loads of critically acclaimed roles. On the other, he’s a one-dimensional gravelly-throated thug who sells Kellogg’s Optivita in his spare time.
44 Inch Chest is a gangster drama which shows the sensitive side of Mr Apples and Pears but it’s not going to change your opinion of him one iota.
Colin is destitute after his wife, Liz, leaves him for another man. Devastated, he can only lie on his back in his destroyed apartment listening to Nilson’s “Without You” – a man brought low indeed.
Determined to get him back on his feet, his mates, a group of London gangsters: smooth-talking openly gay Meredith (Ian McShane), sensible Archie (Tom Wilkinson), yappy Mal (Stephen Dillane) and cantankerous old timer Peanut (John Hurt) abduct Liz’s lover, bundle him into the back of van and drag him off to a derelict house somewhere in London.
The next 90 minutes follows the discussion between the characters of what they’re going to do with Loverboy. Most of the film takes place within one room, peppered with flashbacks of how Liz came to tell Colin about her infidelity and Colin stalking the streets like a drunk and confused bear.
The acting is superb, particularly from Ian McShane as the self-assured, smooth and charismatic Meridith. His banter with the homophobic Peanut (possibly the most vicious old man in the world) is frequently the best thing about the film.
Yet despite a promising start, the film starts to run out of steam in the second and third acts. A hallucination in which Colin imagines his wife cracking on to his friends ultimately leads nowhere and the five are so unanimously decided that Loverboy should die, there’s little conflict between them.
Also it’s absolutely littered with swearing; F and C bombs go off left, right and centre but it’s done with a certain rhythmic poetry that makes it both threatening and funny at the same time. It’s not quite in the same league of creative cussing as In The Loop, but it’s wonderfully aware of the punctuation of profanity.
It could easily be labeled as a misogynistic film, what with the violence against women, its perpetual use of the C word and its characters’ seemingly unrelenting hatred of the fairer sex. However, it’s more a film about misogyny rather than one that glorifies its practice; ultimately, all the characters are in their own ways scared or disconnected from women.
It’s a shame that such excellent dialogue and acting isn’t enough to make up for its deficiencies in plot, leaving an ending which feels unsatisfying, limping rather than striding across the finishing line.