A decade ago I saw the film “Sexy Beast” which ended up being one of my favorites of the decade. It was a fast film about retired gangsters pulling “one more heist” that featured Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, a ferocious Ben Kingsley, and giant trippy rabbits. So imagine my excitement when I heard the writers of Sexy Beast were reuniting with Ray Winstone and Ian McShane in “44 Inch Chest”. I was so excited to see another rough, witty, shoot ‘em up. I was so excited I got a babysitter. This was a Special Occasion.
I can’t imagine a movie more different in style that “44 Inch Chest” is from “Sexy Beast”. Sure, there are some elements shared between the two films: offensive language, aging gangsters, and occasional slaps of humor. But where Sexy Beast used a frenetic camera and a number of locations, 44 Inch Chest stayed in one place. It seems like it was written as a play. It’s basically one set, stationary camera work, and a whole bunch of dialogue. So forget Sexy Beast, 44 Inch Chest is more like a British version of Reservoir Dogs – heavy subject matter, violent men, and flashes of humanity.
So, if you’re going to sit through a talky movie, you’re going to want actors who can deliver the lines. In this regard, the movie does not disappoint. Ray Winstone plays Colin Diamond, a man wronged. He is helped out by his, I suppose, gangster buddies including characters played by Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt, and Ian McShane. Tom Wilkinson and John Hurt have both been nominated for two Oscars. Remember the crushingly painful performance in the Elephant Man, well that was a much younger John Hurt. Here he plays an irascible old man, an ex-gangster with a mouth like an angry sailor with turrets. Ian McShane you might know from his golden globe winning performance in the HBO show Deadwood. Here again he plays a man of otherworldly cool, unflappable.
Colin is not a good man. He’s a horrible man. Yet his turmoil, his guilt, his conscious is evident. And so you find yourself feeling, maybe, a little for this man. And that in turn makes you feel bad, a little dirty. Thus this stolid, steady, talky film makes you a part of it. This film makes you question your ethics, your judgment, your morals. That’s quite a result from a 2-dimensional interplay of light, celluloid, and sound. That is the magic, the power, of movies.
Well, perhaps that a bit of an overstatement for this film. But where this is not an “entertaining” film in the vein of “Sexy Beast”, it is a work of Art. If by Art you mean a work that pulls you in and makes it personal. 44 Inch Chest plays this weekend at our beloved Gold Town Nickelodeon.
And hey, it’s pledge week. No group of radio stations captures the breadth and depth of arts in Juneau than the KTOO family of stations. Give it up, and I don’t mean applause, for this incredible community resource. This is Clint Farr, proud ten year KTOO member, alone at the movies.