Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Movies: The Missing Person (2009)/44 Inch Chest (U.S. 2010)

Playing catch-up with a pair of interesting new-to-DVD crime films. One was never released theatrically in this neck of the woods. The other’s entire engagement took place while I was in the bathroom.

The Missing Person is an offbeat, novella-scaled movie. Oscar nominee Michael Shannon plays an ex-NYPD cop turned Chicago shamus, hired by a slippery lawyer and his associate (fellow Oscar nominee Amy Ryan, doubling as producer) to shadow a man on a train to Los Angeles. It’s a sort of post-9/11 noir, Dashiell Hammett’s Flitcraft Parable as told by Paul Auster. Noah Buschel’s movie toys with private eye conventions rather than subverting them; Shannon is led astray by a sexy dame (Margaret Colin, whom I’ve always loved), gets knocked out cold, and finds himself criticized for making wisecracks no one understands. Shannon’s quietly forceful performance is the reason to watch this one. The awed way he says, “This kid blocks the plate like Thurman Munson” while watching a little league game slayed me. Plus the movie has the great good sense to feature Joe Lovano.

The writers and two stars of Sexy Beast reunite for 44 Inch Chest, which unspools like the foulest mouthed Harold Pinter play ever. Hard case Col (Ray Winstone), bereft when his wife (Joanne Whalley) leaves him for a younger man, kidnaps loverboy and spends the next few hours deciding what to do with him. He’s aided, abetted, and egged on in his endeavors by his querulous crew of Ian McShane, Tom Wilkinson and Stephen Dillane. Plus John Hurt, who is given dentures, the better to gnaw on the scenery. At the heart of the talk is men’s fear of love, of vulnerability, of any perceived weakness. Be forewarned that there is some truly world-class profanity on display, never more so than in the scene where the boys end up essentially spouting their sexual fantasies about Col’s missus in the idiotic belief they’re helping their mate’s cause. A scabrously funny movie with some real insight into the male psyche. Don’t skip the epilogues feature on the DVD.