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Film Review 44 Inch Chest

January 28, 2010 9:20 a.m.

KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando reviews 44 Inch Chest

Related Story: 44 Inch Chest


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

KPBS-FM Radio: “44 Inch Chest”
By Beth Accomando
Air date: January 28, 2010

The writers and star of “Sexy Beast” have re-teamed for “44 Inch Chest.” KPBS film critic Beth Accomando says both films cast Ray Winstone as an unlikely romantic stuck in a violent world.

44INCH(ba).wav SOQ 3:55 (music out at 4:55)

(Tag:) “44 Inch Chest” opens tomorrow (Friday) at Landmark’s Ken Cinema. You can find more of Beth’s reviews online at K-P-B-S-dot-O-R-G-slash-cinema-junkie.

What’s a guy to do when his wife leaves him for another man?

CLIP Meredith: I’d toss a coin. Heads I’d skin him alive, find her do the same.

Revenge is at the heart of the new film “44 Inch Chest.” KPBS film critic Beth Accomando will have a review coming up at 6:35/8:35 on Morning Edition.

CLIP Without You Song

Every now and then there are perfect moments in cinema. The opening of “44 Inch Chest” is one of them. As a schmaltzy Harry Nilsson song plays on the soundtrack the camera moves through the rubble of a room where a violent fight has obviously taken place. The contrast between the song and the images provides wicked irony. Then the camera finally lands on Colin, a man in the depths of despair.

CLIP Archie: Colin what’s happened

Colin’s wife of two decades has left him for a younger man. So his friends try to console him.

CLIP Meredith: You listening to me you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve been wronged, you’re in the right, remember that. Now characters like that handsome young macho boy, characters like that will come along to test you, to make you doubt yourself, hate yourself, to turn your life upside down but it’s times like this, that you find out who you are.

And what Colin is is a shattered man. His despair over his wife’s betrayal is made no less tragic than that of Othello’s. Here Colin -- played by Ray Winstone -- describes his love for his wife.

CLIP Colin: And so what if you cook the dinner and get no thanks for it, don’t do it if you expect thanks that’s not why you do it. It’s the maintenance of a marriage the nuts and bolts, the nitty-gritty the reality that’s life, that’s love, it’s not easy nobody ever said it was going to be easy.

Okay, this is my kind of romantic movie because the romance is buried deep in the belly of an ugly beast, in this case revenge. Colin and his friends have kidnapped the wife’s lover and stuck him in a closet. Now they have to decide what to do with him.

CLIP Meredith: I’d toss a coin. Heads I’d skin him alive, find her do the same.
Colin: If it was tails?
Meredith: That’s the hard part Colin.

In a sense that’s where the film goes -- not to the easy resolution but to someplace harder. The surprise is that this proves to be a tale of redemption and forgiveness. There’s a surprising humanity under the film’s tough talking, violence prone surface. And while Colin’s friends hunger for blood and revenge, there’s also a sense of compassion and support for whatever decision he might make.

CLIP Meredith: Listen to me you don’t disgust me you’re not pathetic, you’re not weak. You’re normal. You’re human and humans hurt, right?

Right. But they also thirst for revenge. One friend demands a kind of Biblical wrath in response to the infidelity. A sin’s been committed and it must be punished, in an Old Testament sort of way. There’s even a long section quoting Cecil B. DeMille’s film “Samson and Delilah,” and comes to the same conclusion.

CLIP Samson and Delilah: All because of a woman

“44 Inch Chest” could be construed as misogynistic if it weren’t for Colin’s unwillingness to blame his wife or stop loving her.

CLIP Meredith: That’s what makes you you, you’re more sharing stroke caring. Your capacity for love leaves you vulnerable. But you should be proud of that. Means you care.

Ian McShane is just one of the brilliant actors in this killer ensemble. The dialogue and script have a certain theatricality to them with much of the film playing out in a single room. But with actors like McShane, Winstone, and John Hurt delivering lines with razor sharp precision, what more could you possibly ask for? The dialogue comes from Louis Mellis and David Scinto, who also wrote “Sexy Beast.” They serve up such savage fun that you can’t help smiling with glee despite the grimness of the film.

“44 Inch Chest” is already vying for a spot on my year’s top ten list, and it’ll be pretty hard to knock this seething beast of a film off its top perch.

For KPBS, I’m Beth Accomando.