Welcome to Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten or unknown film and TV credits.
This week we take a look at Ian McShane, who is one of the best actors on the planet at playing the villain – his characters are often so wonderfully reprehensible that you sometimes question your own morals – and an all-round British acting legend. We all know and love McShane, even when we hate his characters, am I right?
Whether appearing in Hollywood blockbusters like Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides, cult comedy gems like Hot Rod, or groundbreaking TV shows like Game of Thrones, Deadwood, Dallas and the upcoming American Gods, McShane is an actor with a storied career, with some hidden gems tucked away waiting to be unearthed.
This week we’ve been to the bottom of the ocean and found gold, but we did have to dig through some seaweed to get there. As perfect as McShane can be, his filmography hasn’t always been spotless after all…
Dick Francis: In the Frame (1989)
Ian McShane is David Cleveland, a consultant for the British jockey club, and I don’t understand who his character is or why he’s taken up amateur detecting, or why there are two previous Dick Francis films and people cried out for a third, but that is where we are at.
Film three isn’t the best place to enter a franchise but recommended itself for being the film least about horses. The day David stops by to visit rich friends two of their homes get robbed. The robbers were considerate and left a phone, so Susan (Liliane Clune) calls her husband, Ray (Joseph Ziegler), to give him the bad news. And then the bomb goes off.
If you’ve ever found yourself cringing at bad grief acting before, no grief acting is worse. No grief stands out like a sore thumb and either Susan was secretly hated by all her acquaintances or got a bum rap in life. The robbers have their thieving down to a science so when the group leave to see to what left’s of Ray’s home and poor wife, Vogel’s place gets hit up for property next.
Finally, there’s a broken plate and kicked stool when Vogel (Patrick Cauderlier) realizes his wine cellar has been looted. The latest of his doomed business ventures, the guy has the kind of debt that gets you sent to prison but manages to find foolish friends who will still loan him money. Flying to Germany with his secret second passport and openly gambling away others’ cash, he should be the criminal the film tries to catch. Instead he’s the sidekick to Cleveland’s unmemorable PI.
Either bottles were salvaged from the ransack or liquor is the essential of the cash strapped because nobody walks into a room without bubbly in this movie, or checks for a second bomb. They’re as carefree as people who haven’t been taken for all they own. The central mystery is art forgery, if you can believe it, and while spots are left wide open for double cross the film never bothers. The strangeness of a painting being the main takeaway from two robberies and a murder is enough.
McShane has nothing to work with, nor does he rise above the material. Cleveland is completely bland. You don’t know what he cares about or where he draws the line. He’s got eyes for Marina (Barbara Rudnik). That much is clear from the moment he meets her, so the case sending him to Germany where she lives is a real break. There’s a poor painter guy he questions under false pretenses and then ditches, like it’s ok to make fun of a person’s craft. If that sounds like a movie you need to see, watch (but don’t pay) for Dick Francis: In the Frame.
Verdict: Better Left Buried
Kieran – 44 Inch Chest (2009)
44 Inch Chest features an ensemble cast of Britain’s finest character actors (Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Tom Wilkinson and John Hurt) and places them in a scenario which, on paper, seems like a vehicle for them to indulge in the hard man acting they all excel at. However, the film is so much more than that and it provides a fascinating examination of masculinity.
If there’s one thing our Brits know how to do it’s a crime flick. Classics like Get Carter and The Long Good Friday are the dons of the genre, while Guy Ritchie’s cockney capers, Layer Cake and Sexy Beast have provided the creme de la creme in this century. Or how about the Nick Love movies of the noughties starring Danny Dyer before he became a soap star? The Business and Football Factory are just two movies that wear their ‘geezer’ tag proudly while being genuinely entertaining.
However, for every gem you have a Rancid Aluminium, which is just as stinky as the name suggests. Anyway, I enjoy a ‘geezer’ movie – even the shit ones – but these hooligans have overshadowed some of British cinema’s classier criminals; Gangster No. 1 and Wild Bill to name a couple. Perhaps victims of misunderstanding and false assumptions, they’re two examples of some of the finest exports this country has to offer which failed to reach the audience they deserved. Another one that perhaps suffered due to the same misconceptions was Malcolm Venville’s psychological drama 44 Inch Chest, written by the same duo who penned Sexy Beast.
This really isn’t what you might expect (that is if you’re expecting ‘ardmen givin’ it LA’GE). 44 Inch Chest does star the ultimate geezer and hardman, Ray Winstone (who also happens to be a truly incredible actor), who delivers one of the best performances of his career as a betrayed husband experiencing emotional turmoil.
Colin (Winstone) discovers his wife is having an affair with a French waiter aptly named Loverboy (Melvil Paupaud). To help Colin restore some of his manhood, his friends kidnap Loverboy in broad daylight and take him to an abandoned house where they won’t be disrupted so their buddy can exact his revenge before they go for a pint. However, Colin is a bit more humane than his friends and struggles with anger, remorse, self-pity and sadness as his sadistic friends Old Man Peanut (John Hurt), Ian McShane (Meredith), Archie (Tom Wilkinson) and Mal (Stephen Dillane) encourage him to put the cheeky playboy out of his misery. Talk about peer pressure, huh?
44 Inch Chest is a dialogue heavy movie (originally a play) which is carried by a terrific cast whose absolute bastard characters keep it engaging throughout. They all play off each other superbly. Ray Winstone puts in one of the best performances of his career as the conflicted Colin, whereas John Hurt is absolutely outstanding as the nasty Old Man Peanut. Tom Wilkinson is great in his supporting role as the mother loving Archie and Dillane is solid as the sleazy Mal. But it’s McShane who steals the show, unsurprisingly brilliant as the elegant, well-dressed and cooler than a polar bear’s toenails, Meredith. Together, they individually excel and shine as a unit, reminiscent of the top drawer ensemble Quentin Tarantino gathered for his stunning debut, Reservoir Dogs. Winstone holds it all together, however, as his conflicted descent into madness is a masterclass.
44 Inch Chest is definitely not for everyone, but if you like seeing actors top of their game then it’s worth seeing for that alone.
Verdict: Buried Treasure