Paramount // 2002 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Erin Boland (Retired) // January 13th, 2004
"Bloke'd have to be a goose to turn down that sort of dosh. If it was up
to me, I'd take the money and run."
-- Barry Ryan (Bryan Brown)
In the spirit of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, David Caesar (writer and director) presents Dirty Deeds. The Down Under crime flick presents the dark casino underworld of 1969 Sydney. Groovy.
Barry Ryan (Bryan Brown, Cocktail, Two Hands) owns Sydney, the girls, the clubs, and the slot machines in the casinos. In Sydney, it's Barry's way or the highway. The crooked cop in his pocket, Detective Ray (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park, Event Horizon), just asks that Barry leave no witnesses. The game runs smoothly until a Chicago mafia boss sends Tony (John Goodman, The Big Lebowski, Mother Night) and Sal (Felix Williamson) to buy Barry out and introduce a new, high-tech slot machine to the Sydney underworld. With a host of supporting characters, the game gets interesting: Darcy (Sam Worthington, Hart's War), Barry's nephew and personal assistant; Sharon (Toni Collette, The Hours The Sixth Sense), Barry's rough and tough wife; Margaret (Kestie Morassi Darkness Falls), Barry's hot mistress; and Norm (Andrew S. Gilbert, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Mullet), a friend and fellow Aussie gangster. A lot of posturing takes place, leaving us to wonder who is really going to come out on top.
While Dirty Deeds is not the comedy of errors of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, it has the same look and feel. The story in general is not as difficult to follow as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, mainly because the slang is not as obtuse in Dirty Deeds. The main storytelling technique that the film relies on are the differences between "what is said" and "what is not said," as several scenes in the movie leave key background details up to our imaginations, allowing us to craft the characters as sinister or innocent as we desire. Since the film is mainly driven by its intricate story (as opposed to character development), and can be difficult to follow at times, I am providing a more detailed discussion of the story line below. I will avoid providing any major details/spoilers that aren't available on either the film's site or IMDb, but if you like to know less about a movie before watching it, you may want to skip the next paragraph.
In the opening sequences of the movie, Barry and his gang are smashing the slot machines of a casino owner, Freddie, who has refused to use his machines. Over in America, Tony and Sal are bringing a gun (yes, a gun) and a slot machine onto a plane bound for Australia. We get a brief flashback from their meetings with Jimmy (the Chicago mafia boss). He tells Tony not to let Sal do any business, and Sal to not to let Tony fail (with a hint of violence if necessary). Barry sends Darcy over to greet the two Americans to invite them to a party he is throwing in their honor. Tony invites Darcy out to lunch with him provided he can find a good Italian restaurant (pizza, the Australians have never heard of it) and the two begin a friendship. The party for Tony and Sal is held at the club where Margaret coincidently bartends. She argues with Barry, because he has brought Sharon. Sharon sees the argument and approaches the two. Barry passes Margaret off as Darcy's new girlfriend. That evening, after the party, Tony makes Barry an offer, and Barry tells Tony that he doesn't really run things. Sal later has the first member of Barry's gang, and one of Barry's closer friends killed. I've heard a few people complain that the film had a rather weak ending. Dirty Deeds didn't quite end with the "bang" that I originally thought it would, but I wouldn't call the ending weak; indeed, it was in fact rather clever.
Based mainly on Dirty Deeds' genre, I expected the characters to be fairly one-dimensional. I was pleasantly surprised at the depth that was shown in several of the characters. Bryan Brown gave an incredible performance as Barry. While his part for the first half of the film was fairly straightforward, by the end of the film, I couldn't tell if Barry had really flipped or was merely pretending to be insane and doing a damn good job at it. Toni Collette brings us a wife who is much smarter then she appears to be, and pretty damn tough too. I was a little disappointed with John Goodman's portrayal of Tony. Goodman is an excellent actor, and his performance was nothing less the top quality; however, I found it hard to believe that Tony was, at some earlier point in his life, tough and ruthless enough to work his way up the ladder with the Chicago mafia.
Thematically, the story is a little on the weak side. The only underlying themes that really stand out are the coming of age of Darcy and his development of the father-son relationship with Tony that he should have had with Barry. During the end of the movie, Darcy changes significantly in his perception of Barry and the work he is doing.
The video transfer to the DVD was as good as should be expected for any film. Any scenes in the movie that appeared slightly subdued, muted, or blurred appeared (and I emphasize slightly) to be intentional cinematography devices to enhance the ambience of the film. The cinematography of the film was breathtaking -- it combined some fantastic 1960s scenery and sight gags with some of the most interesting shots and angles possible. Throughout the film, the flesh tones were true and the blacks lacked any sense of graininess
The audio track had one chief weak point: in several scenes, the dialogue was much quieter than the soundtrack that either preceded or followed it. While this may have been an intentional touch on the part of the editors, I found it rather annoying as I was continually adjusting the volume. Aside from this, the soundtrack was excellent and adeptly developed the movie's mood with a nice mix of more recent and older (but still groovy) '60s tunes. The dialogue throughout the movie was, for the most part, clear and easy to understand, though the Aussie accents posed an occasional problem.
The DVD offered nothing but the original theatrical trailer in the "extras" category; this was a big letdown since cut scenes would have been a very interesting addition.
It's not as quite as memorable as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but if you liked any of those flicks, Dirty Deeds is at least worth renting.
Dirty Deeds is pronounced not guilty, and free to take the dosh and run.
Review content copyright © 2004 Erin Boland; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer
* Official Site