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The Medicine Goes Down

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The gangster drama 44 Inch Chest has a screenplay by Louis Mellis and David Scinto, who wrote the cheekily homoerotic Sexy Beast. But this time, instead of Spain, they maroon us in a room with a group of baroquely profane gangsters (among them Ian McShane, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson, and Stephen Dillane) as they torture the lover of the wife (Joanne Whalley) of their distraught mate (Ray Winstone). The script probably looked great on paper, but instead of letting it breathe, director Malcolm Venville jumps to a close-up of each actor as he drops another arch one-liner: The effect is to clobber you with lines that were already clobbersome and needed no extra emphasis. It starts to feel less like a thriller than an actors’ workshop. But I liked the raspy, crêpe-paper-skinned Hurt as an old coot who only summons up the air to expel his obscenities through sheer malevolence.

Murray Lerner’s upcoming concert DVD Leonard Cohen Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 is having a one-week run at Cinema Village, and even though it’s barely an hour, has pedestrian camerawork, and Cohen is in iffy voice, it’s worth seeing with an audience. It’s an ode to Cohen’s flaky majesty. He came onstage in the middle of the night before 600,000 kids after the concert had turned ugly (Hendrix had just inspired them to set fires), and you can feel the bad vibes begin to dissipate the moment he starts to sing into the darkness. I saw Cohen at Radio City Music Hall last year: We cheered our hearts out, and he made us feel as if we had blessed him. On the Isle of Wight, he thanks the rapt crowd in a way that must have made them proud for shutting up and listening. Even when his lyrics turn caustic, he appeals to our better natures.

Extraordinary Measures
CBS Films.
PG.

Saint John of Las Vegas
Indievest Pictures.
R.

44 Inch Chest
Image Entertainment.
R.

Leonard Cohen Live at the Isle of Wight 1970
Sony Legacy.
NR.

E-mail: filmcritic@newyorkmag.com.


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