Alliance Films' June '10 Releases
44 Inch Chest (June 1/10)
Before it falls apart in its last third, 44 Inch Chest primarily comes off as an uneven yet engrossing drama that benefits substantially from the efforts of its unusually impressive roster of performers. The movie, which transpires primarily within a seedy apartment, follows four friends (Stephen Dillane's Mal, Tom Wilkinson's Archie, John Hurt's Old Man Peanut, and Ian McShane's Meredith) as they agree to help Ray Winstone's Colin kidnap the man who slept with his wife, with the initial plan to torture and kill said man inevitably falling to the wayside as Colin begins to have second thoughts. The decidedly stagy nature of 44 Inch Chest's premise is initially not as problematic as one might've anticipated, as the viewer's interest is piqued right from the get-go by the all-star cast's admittedly irresistible efforts - with Winstone's expectedly intense turn matched by his top-notch costars (and as good as Dillane, Wilkinson, and Hurt are here, it's McShane's ridiculously charismatic work that stands as the film's most entertaining aspect). The less-than-consistent atmosphere is tempered by the inclusion of a few utterly hypnotic stretches - ie Hurt's character regales the others with a retelling of the Samson and Delilah myth - with the movie's downward spiral ultimately triggered by screenwriters Louis Mellis and David Scinto's head-scratching decision to separate the characters and place an increasingly pronounced emphasis on Colin's progressively deranged mindset (complete with utterly needless dream sequences). It's consequently not surprising to note that one's enthusiasm for the proceedings slowly but surely evaporates as 44 Inch Chest limps towards its oddly anticlimactic finish, yet despite its deficiencies, the film is effectively redeemed by the strength of its opening hour and by the marvelous performances held within.
Checking Out (June 1/10)
An absolutely interminable piece of work, Checking Out follows airline executive Ray Macklin (Jeff Daniels) as he becomes convinced that he's going to die after the sudden death of a beloved coworker - with the film subsequently detailing Ray's ongoing efforts at convincing his wife (Melanie Mayron's Jenny) and a series of skeptical doctors that there's something medically wrong with him. It's clear right from the outset that Checking Out has been infused with few attributes designed to capture and sustain the viewer's interest, as director David Leland's hopelessly flat visual sensibilities are exacerbated by his reliance on aggressively over-the-top instances of light-hearted humor (which wouldn't be quite so bad were any of this actually funny). The continuing emphasis on eye-rollingly tedious comedic set pieces - ie Ray encounters a creepy hypochondriac, Ray attempts to install a hydrotherapy unit, etc - perpetuates the film's shockingly sluggish atmosphere, while the oddball, almost avant-garde third act is sure to test the patience of even the most easy-going of viewers. Daniels' natural charisma is lost underneath his progressively frantic performance, and it's finally impossible to label Checking Out as anything other than a colossal misfire of nigh epic proportions.