Sadly, the title of this macho little flick refers not to a stripper, but a wardrobe. However, there's no piece of furniture yet constructed that could sustain the onslaught of scenery chewing provided by such heavyweight actors as Sir Ian McShane, John Hurt, Ray Winstone, and Tom Wilkinson. These old deviled hams have a hell of a time ripping up the joint in 44 Inch Chest. In fact, this pride of cagey lions stalks and prowls with so much late-game urgency it's a shame they're stuck with a script in no hurry to go anywhere fast, and with a director with that same sense of momentum.
What little plot concerns a heartsick London gangster, Colin (Winstone), who finds out his longtime wife (Joanne Whalley) has been having an affair with a younger man. In a display of loyalty and twisted sympathy, Colin's best mates abduct the young lothario, toss him in a van and drag him to a safe house, where he'll be anything but. These nasty blokes brim with ill intentions, and they take turns venting lifetimes of frustration on the poor, scared bastard, who sits trembling in silence waiting for a violent end that seems inevitable. They cuss and spit and howl, and smoke countless cigarettes, and, between threats, occasionally hit on a profundity or two about love, friendship and dignity. Mostly they trade extended monologues, including one from a wheezing John Hurt. It's a blast watching these terrific actors roar, or in McShane's case, purr, with the mix of menace and bemusement that he mastered on Deadwood. Pity then that these lads have little room to roam, the direction feels staged and claustrophobic, and the script sputters out by film's end; the longer these un-wise guys bellow and ramble, the less they have to say.
Opens Friday night, March 26, at the Burton Theatre (3420 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-473-9238). For a complete schedule go to burtontheatre.com.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.