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Plain Dirty

cast: Dominique Swain, Henry Thomas, Arie Verveen, James Urbaniak, and Karen Allen

director: Zev Berman

97 minutes (15) 2003 Mosaic VHS rental
Also available to rent on DVD

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by John Percival
Inez MacBeth (Dominique Swain) is young woman in the American Deep South. Married to violent petty criminal Edgar, she is having an affair with a popular lawyer, Druden and when an unwanted admirer kills her husband, love takes an unusual turn.

The 'Dirty' of the title could very well refer to most of the cast as playing the southern white trash they look as if they could all do with a good shower. This is actually quite a deep and interesting film of a young woman believing in true love away from her loser husband. A jealous drunk, he beats Inez and chains her up either in the house or in the yard. She dreams of the life her lover can give her and she is even more determined when her friend Butcher Lee, an amateur psychic, tells her she is due to be with her true love. However to do this she is going to have to get rid of Edgar.

The humid heat of the south and swamps make quite a impressive scene in which to play out this story. The poverty of Inez and her husband, the ramshackle house with old cars in the yard is stereotypical but still very vivid and a useful insight into the characters. The violence against Inez is also pretty clear as she spends most of the film with at least one hideously black and swollen eye. It stiffens her resolve to get rid of her husband.

Dominique Swain is actually quite charming as the grubby innocent, rough around the edges Inez. In her sweet Southern dialect she talks about her knight in shining armour much like any young girl but her knight will take her away from a life of domestic violence. Edgar's partner in crime, a 'hick' called Flowers is perhaps the biggest surprise of the movie as he is much smarter than he appears. Driven by his love for Inez, he gives her the way out that she needs to be with Druden. It is his plan to kill Edgar and it is he who carries out the deed giving Inez an alibi but, ultimately, he is unhappy that he committed murder just for the object of his affection to swan off to be with her rich boyfriend.

Plain Dirty is filled with some really grubby characters who for the most part exhibit a certain charm and for that they are quite watchable. Backed up with a plot that seems to be routine initially, it later twists into a very unusual love story and if you can put up with the relaxed pace then the performances and the beautiful setting will not leave you disappointed.

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