Dirty Deeds

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Review byMatthew Turner3/06/2003

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 97 mins

Essentially this is Lock Stock In The Outback – stylish and impressively shot but lacking in story or script, despite the best efforts of the cast.

That Guy Ritchie has a lot to answer for. As if the slew of sub-Lock, Stock British gangster movies that followed his barnstorming debut wasn’t enough, now the Australians are getting in on the act, too.

That’s exactly what writer-director David Caesar’s film is; an Aussie version of Lock, Stock. And it nearly works. But not nearly enough.

Vietnam, Fruit Machines And Pizza

It’s set in 1969, against the background of the Vietnam war. Small-time gangster Barry (Bryan Brown) runs his criminal empire of, er, fruit machines with the judicious use of a baseball bat. He’s married to Toni Collette, having an affair with a young mistress (Kestie Morassi as Margaret; an impressive debut) and, handily, best friends with the local police detective (Sam Neill).

Meanwhile, his nephew Darcy (Sam Worthington) has just got back from Vietnam and is obsessed with learning how to make something called “pizza”…

However, the arrival of two Mafia representatives (John Goodman and Felix Williamson), who have their minds set on sharing Barry’s business, starts him on a violent and bloody path. And things are not helped by Margaret and Darcy falling for each other…

Starts Well…But Falls Apart

The first half of the film is extremely enjoyable. It’s impressively stylish (the opening credits are a treat) and the characters are introduced nicely, though, having introduced them (particularly in the case of Williamson’s psychotic gun-man), Caesar isn’t really sure what to do with them. Consequently, some scenes (Goodman taking Darcy under his wing, pizza-wise, for example) work better than others.

The main problem is the tone. It’s much too violent and bloody to be a comedy, yet much of it is clearly meant to be funny. Similarly, Barry is presumably intended to be sympathetic (given the way the film ends), yet no-one appears to have informed Brown of this, so he spends the movie snarling and snapping at everyone. Or shooting them.

That said, it looks fantastic and it has its moments, though it pretty much all falls apart about halfway through. Still, the cast try hard and it’s worth watching for Kestie Morassi (who looks a little bit like Jennifer Aniston) – here’s hoping she gets bigger roles off the back of this.

In short, this is by no means unwatchable, but a script rewrite or two might have turned it into something a lot better. Caesar definitely has talent, however, and once he learns how to use it properly, he could be a director to watch.

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Content updated: 21/08/2019 20:34

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