44 Inch Chest (18)

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The Independent Culture

A brooding Pinteresque menace hangs over this chamber-piece of London lowlife, though any expectation of Louis Mellis and David Scinto's screenplay duplicating the thrills of their previous effort, Sexy Beast, is to be frustrated.

Ray Winstone stars as Colin Diamond (cos he's a geezer?) who on discovering that his wife (Joanne Whalley) is leaving him beats her up and kidnaps the cuckolder – a French waiter – with a little help from his friends (Tom Wilkinson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Stephen Dillane). What follows, in a poky derelict room, is less a story than a concert of audition-style monologues from each of its stars, all apparently trying to outdo one another in football-terrace profanity: the "c" word clocks up a record number of uses, and John Hurt, channelling Albert Steptoe, almost spits out his dentures in an effort to keep up.

Its dramatic business shifts between whether Diamond is actually suffering a psychotic breakdown and what he plans to do to his wife's lover, but the longer it goes on the less tense (and less funny) it plays. A more prosaic question inadvertently arises: why does this hardnut need four friends to kidnap and intimidate a bound, helpless man?

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