A deliberately ambiguous opening – a slow pan around the devastated flat of supine villain Colin Diamond (Winstone) to the strains of Harry Nilsson’s ‘Without You’ – is followed by the initially unexplained abduction of a young French waiter (Melvil Poupaud) from a Chelsea restaurant. The victim is then locked up in a wardrobe in an abandoned East End warehouse by a motley crew of caricatured hardmen – Diamond’s geezers! – consisting of mother’s boy Archie (Tom Wilkinson), confident, black-shirted gay Meredith (McShane), semi-psychopathic Mal (Stephen Dillane) and the viciously unreconstructed Old Man Peanut (John Hurt).
The stage is set – and what a claustrophobic, theatrical, two-room stage it is – for a day of taunting, vicious banter as the traumatised, volatile and hallucinatingly drunk Diamond arrives and his pals encourage him to exact fatal revenge on ‘lover boy’ for, as flashbacks and dialogue reveal, his wife’s (Joanne Whalley) infidelity.
Aiming for black comedy and a redemptive satire on self-deluding male machismo, ham fisted debut director Malcolm Venville instead gives his cast enough rope to hang themselves rather than the characters they play, with the exceptions of poor Poupaud, an almost wordless skeleton in a cupboard, and the unfortunate Winstone, who graces what is otherwise a deeply unedifying movie with one of the most raw, deeply felt but wasted performances of his career.