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Dirty Deeds (2002)

  Directed by: David Caesar
Starring: Bryan Brown, Toni Collette, John Goodman, Kestie Morassi, Sam Neill, Felix Williamson
Links: Dirty Deeds on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on DVD, Buy on Video
Genre: Drama
Awards: AFI Awards: Best Film 2002 (nominee)

This movie gets: 6.00 (2 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 129th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

Dirty Deeds (2002) is also mentioned in pearly's review of WillFull (2001).

"Another Aussie letdown (sort of)" - a review by mino

Dirty Deeds left me very much with mixed feelings. As is so often the case with an Aussie film, it failed to quite live up to its promise. It nearly got there, but just fell short, and as a result is strangely unsatisfying.

Dirty Deeds is the story of Barry Ryan (Bryan Brown), 60s Australian crime lord, who has a stranglehold on the Sydney poker machine market. When two American thugs (the always-brilliant John Goodman, and Aussie Felix Williamson) turn up to horn in on Ryan's action, he's less than happy. Based in part on a true story, Dirty Deeds is a very interesting movie. But it's just not nearly as good as it could be.

Don't get me wrong. Dirty Deeds was, for an Australian movie, actually pretty good. I enjoyed it; I can certainly think of worse ways to spend a couple of hours, that's for sure. All that aside though, the fact remains that Dirty Deeds suffers far too much from the same problems as far too many Australian films, namely:

Over-The-Top Performances
Many Australian actors (or possibly directors) seem to think that 'hamming it up' is actually a compliment. Williamson, to pick on someone at random, is truly awful. I know that the movie is supposed to be 'over-the-top', but really: have these people never heard of subtlety? It's like watching a sketch comedy show where, with every joke, the cast do a thumbs-up to the camera and go 'ehh? ehh?'. I mean, we are an intelligent audience (I hope). Don't insult our intelligence by assuming we need everything spelt out to us.
There are far too many scenes, pieces of dialogue, and even whole characters that have either been lifted (consciously, as an homage, or unconsciously) from other movies, like the Pulp Fiction (1994) 'hose shower', and the Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) 'bullet tracking shot'. Maybe they're intended to be clever references: they just seem kind of… well… lame. What isn't overly reminiscent of another movie is just plain tired, and has been done before.
Being Overly Self-Conscious
Maybe it's the fact that Australian movies have to be massively 'Aussie' to make it overseas: but you know, every second phrase doesn't have to be 'flat out like a lizard drinking', or 'stone the bloody crows mate'. We can work out that the film is set in Australia, and which characters are Australian and which aren't. They don't need to sound like Dad and Dave.
Trying To Be Funny
There is only one circumstance where, in a non-comedy film, you can try to be funny: when you know you're going to succeed. Otherwise, don't bother. Lame jokes are worse than no jokes.
Trying To Be Too Clever By Half
Keep the camera straight. Keep the needless helicopter tracking shots to a minimum. Don't put in needless special effects or other buggerizing-about. Ease up on all the little tricks they showed you in the last class at film school. Just make the movie, tell a story.

Perhaps I am being harsh, but I do find it frustrating that potentially great Australian films can be dragged down by the same things, every single time. On the plus side, Dirty Deeds does actually have some great features. Goodman really is fantastic: I have a lot of time for him, he makes every role he's in come alive. Brown is, I am willing to admit, far better than usual: I generally have little time for him. Toni Collette, another one who I'm not quite sold on, was also excellent as Ryan's cuckolded wife. I'm really warming to her, actually.

Dirty Deeds is certainly better than some movies around, and you could do worse. It is quite reminiscent (and I won't be the first or last person to make this call) of the far superior Two Hands (1999), and even though Dirty Deeds suffers fairly badly in the comparison, that can't be all bad. See it, just don't get your hopes up too far.

Of course, David Caesar can take one positive out of my review: Dirty Deeds is far, far, far better than his execrable Mullet. Well done, Davo.

mino gives this movie 6 out of 10.
Review created on Tue 23 Jul 2002

"Some hits, some misses" - a review by pearly

It's 1969 in Sydney, Australia. Barry Ryan (Bryan Brown) is a mafia-style crime boss who has taken control of all the slot machines in town. But then the real mafia come down from America to pay him a visit and to try and force their way into the racket.

In this crime flick, we once again see Bryan Brown as an Aussie tough guy; only this time, he's dressed in 60's clobber. Dirty Deeds will no doubt remind you of Two Hands (1999) - if not because of the similarities in the plot, then because of Bryan's presence (and the similarity of his role in each). And, like Two Hands, Dirty Deeds uses some "cool" visuals throughout the story (compare the images of the buried guy in Two Hands with the shots that go through the pig's carcass in Dirty Deeds). Unfortunately, these effects do not sit nearly as well in the latter as they do in the former.

So, what was good about this film? I really enjoyed watching Bryan Brown and Toni Collette hamming up their Aussie accents. Toni Collette is surely a national treasure. The movie was quite funny too, and the sets and outfits all looked fabulous. The sections in the outback look great - it's nice to see these sorts of areas on the big screen.

John Goodman put in a brilliant performance, as always (is it just me, or does he seem heftier with every new film that comes out?), and newcomer Kestie Morassi suited her role perfectly. You Am I make an appearance as the band at a nightclub, and if there was ever an Aussie band that was suited to a movie set in the sixties, they are it. They would hardly have even needed to go to wardrobe.

I don't think this film will hit the top of anyone's favourite movies list. But, for an Aussie film, it's quite slick, and the addition of John Goodman gives it the cred it would otherwise be missing. Don't rush to see it, but get to it at some point.

pearly gives this movie 6 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 22 Jul 2002

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 2
Average rating: 6.00
Lowest rating: 6 (by mino, pearly)
Highest rating: 6 (by mino, pearly)
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