Dirty Deeds Review
The gangster film has been a much maligned genre of late. A glut of releases, often of questionable merit, towards the end of the nineties is the probably cause of this. As a genre, however, it still has it's merits; it provides a wonderful tapestry of extreme behaviour, situations and morally dubious anti-heroes and from time to time, a little gem slips out such as Sexy Beast or, indeed, Dirty Deeds.
David Ceaser's Dirty Deeds purports to tell the, allegedly, true story of the peculiar time in Australian history when the mafia decided to take in interest in the burgioning gambling scene. Two representatives (John Goodman and Felix Williamson) were sent 'down under' and Dirty Deeds is the story of their attempts to cut a deal with the king pin figure, Baz, played with charisma and subtlety by Bryan Brown. The film is helped enourmously by the chemistry between these characters, performances by Goodman and Williamson are superb, and a lesson in understatement.
The main story arc is provided by Baz's Nephew, Darcy, played by Sam Worthington, who unwittingly finds himself in the centre of intrigues upon leaving the army to join his uncles business. Darcy is a way in for the viewer and we share his mounting horror at the events that unfold. Add to the mix his relationship with gangster moll Sharon, played by Toni Collette, and his ambition to introduce Australia to the delights of a fast food he experienced in Vietnam, a strange circular cheese dish called 'pizza', and you have all the ingredients for a quirky, interesting little film.
There are many things Dirty Deeds has going for it. The cinematography is superb, whether the location is a grimy backstreet slot machine outlet or the vast overhang of the Australian outback, the film assaults the senses and no shot is wasted. Sam Neill's minor role, as a world-weary bent cop, comes dangerously close to stealing the film and the script is full of delightful little witticisms and incidents. The confusion of the Australian bell-boy when presented with a tip is handled beautifully. Sam Neill deserves special mention, his performance is absolutely superb, played with just the right amount of oiliness, charisma and we often feel his despair at the Baz's sometimes over the top antics.
There is a slight problem with the end of the film. For a film that delights in quirkiness and oddness, the end might seem a little too pat and contrived, but this is a minor criticism. If you wish to experience the film in a version in which the ending lives up to what has gone before in the film as a whole, simply turn it off as soon as the credits roll. It's a personal choice, however, and some (including David Ceaser!) might feel the film is fine as it is. Dirty Deeds is a film that deserves an audience. It's gloriously irrelevent, witty, has wonderful characters, superb soundtrack and a strong and interesting plot. Moreover, it's quite unpredictable, and this is one film in which you won't be able to guess the end thirty minutes before it comes.
A stunning, anamorphic trasnfer that is almost reference quality. The image is clear and well defined with no hint of damage, artefacts or edge enhancement. Colours are strong and vibrant throughout and the transfer captures all the sophistication of the cinematography.
Good, clear mix that brings out the best of the excellent soundtrack. Not a film in which the rears have much to do, but when they are used, it's in an intelligent, interesting way. Dialogue is clear, and there is much bass. Satisfying is the best word to describe it.
There's a wealth of stuff to play with here. No less than three Commentaries are offered from a variety of people. First up, David Ceaser, Bryan Brown and Deberah Balderstone are first up, and very interesting it is too. Recorded together, they prompt each other throughout and give a wealth of anecdotes and stories surrounding the filming and the decisions and difficulties they faced. Deborah Balderstone is rather quiet, but considering David Ceasar and Bryan Brown are such chatterboxes, this is forgivable. They are warm and entertaining and one of the most interesting things about this commentary is the huge number of CGI shots they point out that you might well miss otherwise.
Next up, David Ceasar again, but this time recorded with Geoffrey Hall, and this one is more concerned with the techincalities of the actual camera work. Quite technical and involved, this one guides you through the variety of film types and lighting methods employed and how they worked together. It's interesting enough, but does get quite technical, it's one for the amatuer film makers to pick over. David Ceaser repeats himself sometimes, but not often enough for it to be an issue. It is an interesting listen, though, as the cinematography is one of the highlights of the film.
Third up, it's Paul Healy, composer, taking us through the soundtrack step by step. Interesting and it is a good soundtrack, so it's just as well there's the option jump from track to track. All in 2.0, though, which is a shame and something of a missed opportunity.
Note: None of the commentaries are subtitled
There's also a Photo Gallery of thirty six images. Nice, but pointless, and a 16:9/1 Trailer that is fast and furious. Contains a few minor spoilers, so contain yourself until after you've seen the film. No subs for the trailer.
You also get a nice, four minute long interview with Bryan Brown lifted from Australian television. This gives a nice background to the film and is a nice introduction. Not subtitled.
A Documentary on the soundtrack, which runs for nine minutes, which is presented 4:3/1 and has no subtitles.
Get Dirty is a twenty five minute long 'making of' segment. More interesting and substantial than most, you get a real sense of how the film was made and came together, rather than a series of talking heads saying how much they love each other. 4:3/1 and no subs.
Out Takes Seven minutes long and consists mainly of B-roll footage. No subtitles and 4:3/1. Not essential and you won't learn much about the film from this. Nice to have it, though.
Dirty Deeds is a great little film. It's packed with wonderful performances and neat little touches that ensure it stands out amongst the recent wave of gangster pictures. To make the package complete, the disc has a wealth of quality extras, best of which are the commentaries, that are consistantly interesting and informative and often very funny. The rest are something of a mixed bag, it's a shame there's no subtitles, but there is much to play with.