This film was made for me. It really was. It’s a nice revenge piece that is fairly different from a lot of films I’ve seen: among other things, roughly ninety percent of the film takes place in one room. Also, this is probably the most dialogue driven film I’ve seen in any recent memory. It’s fast paced, violent, and quite hilarious at many-a-moment. In fact, it has a similar feel to Guy Ritchie’s English gangster films.
“44 Inch Chest” is about a man named Colin (Ray Winstone) whose wife (Joanne Whalley) readily admits to infidelity and wants out of the marriage. At first, Colin is more concerned with the identity of his wife’s new lover than what is actually happening to his life. Once he has the man’s identity, he kidnaps him promptly with the help of friends. The story is really about Colin’s opportunity to exact vengeance on his wife and her newer model boyfriend.
Once the boyfriend has been kidnapped, the crew drags him to an abandoned and boarded up building in the hood. There he’s bound and sat in a chair, then subject to near endless ridicule from Colin’s friends. This is really the part of the film where John Hurt’s character shines through. To put it simply, John Hurt is hysterical. He’s priceless, actually. I’ve always dug English humor and whit from “Are You Being Served?” to most things “Monty Python” to a lot of modern films I’ve seen, and let me say that John Hurt specifically, but more broadly, Colin’s crew is at many times brilliantly funny and really on point. The jokes are vulgar and vile, but they come off so necessary that the film really can’t do without them.
Eventually, Colin gets his alone time with the boyfriend. Colin’s buddies expect to him to say a cool line or two, and then off the lecher. That doesn’t happen. Instead, Colin takes his time. He talks to the man in the chair and it’s during this large chunk of the film that we find out what kind of a man Colin really is. He’s a man who loved his wife, and loved being married. We’re treated to flashbacks of the incident that opened the film, and shown Colin’s slide into dementia. He is so distraught he begins hearing things which give way to full blown hallucinations.
Colin’s alone time is intercut with his crew sitting outside the door in the hallway. Their conversations get even more ridiculous and funny but also serve a great purpose in showing the audience what the outcome of the film could be.
Despite all the problems Colin has during this final block of the film he grows in some surprising ways, and by leaps-and-bounds. He goes from a weak lump of flesh to a real man. While the ending is not at all what I expected, I dug it. I didn’t find it troublesome. The film didn’t suffer for it. I find it kind of nice when I’m expecting one thing, but the filmmaker, essentially, backhands me across the face with something else…even if he does drop some hints as to the outcome.