With friends like these. . .

The cockneys sure have a way with words, don’t they? One of the words they have a way with is “cunt,” which usually takes the place of people’s names and serves nicely as a blunt little exclamation point. If the word offends you, steer clear of 44 Inch Chest (2010), as it contains an incalculable amount of “cunts” per minute.

The four main cunts in the film are played by some serious heavyweights. Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson and Stephen Dillane, to be specific. All of whom have played their fair share of potty-mouthed, verbose tough guys. McShane and Winstone co-starred in another bit of verbal shenanigans called Sexy Beast (2000), whose writers are, not surprisingly, responsible for this script as well. It may not be on par with that brilliant British gangster film, but it’s not without its charms.

Just a couple of cunts exchanging a few words... like cunt.

The story revolves around a group of friends trying to help their pal out of his post-split up rut. When we first see Colin (Winstone) he is laying on his back amidst the rubble of his former relationship, Harry Nilsson’s cover of “Without You” playing on repeat, so it’s clearly going to require extreme measures. Like, say, kidnapping his girlfriend’s new lover and locking him in an armoire? Yes, that will do nicely.

They mean well, for the most part. Archie (Wilkinson), who still lives with his mother, is empathetic. Meredith (McShane), who is politely referred to as a “poof,” is sympathetic and rational. Mal (Dillane) is angry on behalf of his friend (although one gets the impression that he’s having a bit too much fun with all of it) and the charming Old Man Peanut (Hurt) is seriously grumpy and even more seriously old school. He’s not sure why everyone’s still yapping when there’s a young man tied up in an armoire waiting to be killed. There’s no mention of what these gentlemen do for a living, but given their methods and Colin’s lack of surprise by them, I’d imaging that locking their problems in an armoire with intent to dispatch is probably their modus operandi.

They do eventually let the young man out—albeit still tied to a chair with a bag over his head—to give Colin a little alone time with him. Colin’s friends think that killing the young man (and his unfaithful GF) will alleviate his pain and allow him to move on. Colin doesn’t seem so sure and, while he does interrogate the young man, he really seems to be digging for his own role in the relationship’s failure.

44 Inch Chest begins to lose a little bit of steam here, which is unfortunate given that this showdown is really the whole point of the film. It’s not so much where the scenario ends up (which is fine but better executed in another film about a wronged Brit looking for answers called,  The Limey (1999)), but how it gets there. Ray Winstone is a phenomenal actor. No one can pull off tough guy sentimentality like him, but damned if some of the film’s final sequences don’t come off as a bit silly.

No matter. These guys are fun as hell to watch and the script makes them equally fun to listen to.  For example, a confrontation between Old man Peanut and Meredith regarding Meredith’s lifestyle choice ends with Meredith confidently stating, “What I choose to do with my nine-and-a-half has fuck all to do with you.”  Touche.

In the end we’re left with a film that isn’t quite as good as the sum of it’s parts, and poor Colin probably could have saved himself and his buddies a lot of time and energy if he’d just taken a good, long look in the mirror a little sooner. Some people don’t understand why it’s raining on them until they begin questioning what led them out into the storm in the first place.

Directed by Malcolm Venville, Written by Louis Mellis & David Scinto, Starring Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson and Stephen Dillane.

4 Responses to “With friends like these. . .”
  1. Lindsey says:

    Even with the implications of a “good, not great” film here, I still totally want to see this completely based on the cast. I love Ian McShane.

    • Kevin Mattison says:

      If that’s why you’re watching it, you will not be disappointed. Great cast, without a doubt. Ian McShane is brilliant, but most of the REALLY funny lines are Hurt’s. Plus his name is Old man Peanut.

  2. Gavin Craig says:

    Have I mentioned that I love John Hurt. I love John Hurt.

    • Kevin Mattison says:

      He’s in “The Proposition,” too. You should add that to your list. His monologues are killer.

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