Some projects are for the actors first and the audience second, and 44 Inch Chest, the new film from director Malcolm Venville, is a solid example of that type of filmmaking -- a simple story where strong, sharply-drawn performances take precedent over anything else. It's evident by the executive producer credits of two of the leads in the film (Ray Winstone and Ian McShane) that this was put together as a means to showcase the acting talent of a more-than-capable ensemble.
Winstone plays violent thug Colin Diamond, who we first meet as he lays prone on the floor of his own trashed living room in a pile of broken furniture, near-catatonic while Harry Nilsson's cover of "Without You" blares over his hi-fi. He's physically carried away from the mess by his close friend Archie (Tom Wilkinson), but his mind is still a million miles away, trying to make some sense of the end of his twenty-year marriage to Liz (Joanne Whalley) who informed him just the night before that she's in love with another man.
Archie's solution to all of this one of violence, assuming Diamond will feel so much better if he can actually have his way with the ex's new lover. He assembles Diamond's closest confidants -- dim Mal (Stephen Dillane), fey Meredith (Ian McShane), and vile Old Man Peanut (John Hurt) -- for a makeshift cheer-up session with Diamond and a 44-inch chest that contains the kidnapped body of Liz's younger new beau (Dave Legeno).