It’s been 10 years since the release of Jonathan Glazer’s “Sexy Beast,” and yet the movie remains one of the most unforgettable crime thrillers ever made. Much of the film’s success was thanks to Sir Ben Kingsley’s electrifying performance as the venomous Don Logan, so it’s not surprising that the latest expletive-laced thriller from writers Louis Mellis and David Scinto is highlighted by the same kind of scene-chewing roles. “44 Inch Chest” assembles a cast of some of the best British actors working today, including Ray Winstone as Colin Diamond, a gangster contemplating murder after his wife informs him that she’s fallen in love with another man. After his friends kidnap her secret lover and take him back to their secret hideout to exact revenge, the heartbroken Colin must decide between killing in the name of love and walking away the better man.
Though “44 Inch Chest” is filled with lots of clever dialogue between Colin and his friends (an entertaining Tom Wilkinson, Ian McShane, John Hurt and Stephen Dillane), the story leaves much to be desired. There simply isn’t enough going on to fill an entire movie, and the fact that it’s structured more like a play (with a majority of the action taking place in a single room) only makes you wonder why it wasn’t conceived as one. If you can make it through the sluggish 95-minute runtime, “44 Inch Chest” is worth watching for the performances. Just don’t expect to be blown away.
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When “Goal” was released back in 2006, I was tentatively excited about the prospect of two more films centered on the exploits of Santiago Muñez (Kuno Becker). American soccer enthusiasts rarely get the kind of fan service that an entire trilogy of movies offers, but after finally seeing the oft-delayed follow-up, “Goal II: Living the Dream,” my expectations have warmed significantly. The story picks up where the last one left off, with Santiago enjoying great success at Newcastle United. When he’s traded to Spanish side Real Madrid, however, his relationships with Roz (Anna Friel) and Glen (Stephen Dillane) begin to crumble as his new superstar status goes to his head. As always, the on-the-field action is a blast to watch, but while Real Madrid’s cooperation helps bring a sense of reality to the movie (David Beckham gets so much screen time you’d think he had a supporting role), the different storylines feel like something you’d find in a telenovela. There’s one subplot involving Santiago’s mother (Elizabeth Peña) and her new family that’s particularly stupid, while some of the actors that made the first movie a joy to watch (like Dillane and Alessandro Nivola) are given even less to do the second time around. “Goal II” is still worth seeing, but you’ll probably feel guiltier and get less pleasure from watching it.
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Tom Kalin unleashed “Swoon,” his unsettling, arthouse take on the Leopold and Loeb murder case (the same crime that inspired “Rope” and “Compulsion“), way back in ’92. He then disappeared from the world of features for 16 years, and has now returned with this film, based on a lesser-known, yet equally perverse, true crime. “Savage Grace” traces the society-driven, globe-hopping antics of the Baekelands – Brooks (Stephen Dillane, “John Adams”), Barbara (Julianne Moore), and their son, Tony (Eddie Redmayne) – from the 50s through the early 70s. From the very beginning, it’s obvious that Brooks has to put up with a lot. Barbara is theatrical, obnoxious, clingy and probably bipolar, and the last thing she needs is a child. As Tony grows up, the mother-son bond tightens and he seems to inherit some of her nastier traits. Before long, Brooks can’t take it anymore and runs off with Tony’s girlfriend (really, you can’t blame him), leaving mother and son to inflict heaping helpings of emotional damage on one another – a situation that eventually ends in twisted tragedy. What’s most interesting is how, rather than cover snippets of time from the 20-plus year long haul, Kalin instead chooses a handful of pivotal days from the timeline to focus on.
“Savage Grace” isn’t anywhere near as hypnotizing as “Swoon,” and yet it’s hardly a bad film – just a deeply unpleasant one. What was Kalin’s goal in making the piece and how much of it is true? Regardless of intent, he’s ultimately created a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of being wealthy and bored – an ugly combination destined to go sour. It’s also a must-see for fans of Julianne Moore, as she once again proves that she’s willing to go the distance for whatever material she signs on to help interpret.
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