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Dirty Deeds
cast: John Goodman, Bryan Brown, Sam Neill, Toni Collette, and Sam Worthington

writer and director: David Caesar

110 minutes (18) 2002
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
1960s' Australia: Darcy is a young lad just back from the Vietnam War, his head full of wild, American dreams like fast-food restaurants. In between doomed attempts to perfect pizza making, he takes a job with his Uncle Barry, who runs the slot machine rackets in Sydney - and falls in love with his uncle's young girlfriend. Unfortunately, the crime market down under has caught the eye of the Mafia, who send a couple of heavies to persuade Barry to cut them in. One is tired of mob life, the other a trigger-happy bungler. Caught between the Mafia, a corrupt police inspector, and Darcy's increasing doubts about his new lifestyle, Uncle Barry seems out of his depth - but they may have underestimated him...
   This light-hearted crime drama has a highly original setting, and makes the most of it, conjuring up the fashion atrocities and backwater charms of 1960s' Australia, where, to the Mafia guys' horror, televisions "only come in black and white" and pizza is unheard of. The often-violent action moves at a brisk pace, sprinkled with humour that sometimes verges on the slapstick, such as the well-filmed car chase with Darcy struggling to retrieve a gun stuck in the seat springs.
   The characters are entirely believable, while steering clear of the worst crime clichés. Bryan Brown's Barry is half favourite uncle, half ruthless killer, a rough man in a rough country: Sam Worthington's Darcy represents the new generation of Australians, outward-looking and eager to build a new, 'civilised' society. Solid support from Toni Collette, as Barry's equally tough wife, and Sam Neill as the corrupt cop trying to keep the turf war out of the public eye, helps give the whole film an air of authenticity.
   The happy ending may be a little contrived, but you'll be happy to overlook that. Fresh, inventive and convincing, Dirty Deeds is an accomplished movie that makes a welcome change from gritty British gangsters or the mean streets of the US. Long live Aussie crime movies.
   A tricky menu based on a slot machine leads into a fairly standard package of extras - a photo gallery, a trailer, some outtakes, a making-of featurette, and cast filmographies. Two commentaries help make up for that, and there are rumoured to be some great comedy moments hidden away, released only by pulling the arm of the slot machine - but alas, no button on my creaky DVD player would trigger them.
NEXT

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