So far the strongest Aussie film of 2002, “Dirty Deeds” manages to overcome its competition to basically become the best gangster movie we’ve created. Its not up in “Pulp Fiction”, “Reservoir Dogs” or “Lock Stock” territory, but is certainly more wickedly entertaining, engaging and darker than say “Snatch”.
David Caesar has delivered on the difficult task of combining very Aussie humour, 60’s style visual gags, gritty & blood thirsty drama, a coming of age storyline and several larger themes of corruption, war and the world changing into one large and well executed package which never drops the ball despite many rapid changes of tone and pace. This film has been developed over a long time and it shows as the writing, directing, acting and overall production values are at the top of their game and look like they were done for about five times the budget that was utilised.
Brown and Goodman both seem to be having a tremendous time in their roles and play to their strengths. Brown does his usual Aussie bloke gangster stick (ala “Two Hands”) but combines it with a dangerously unstable side which you never for a moment believe to be anything other than genuine. Goodman, as the wise mobster with second thoughts and patience, allows himself to be the butt of gags and yet carries on with likable charm through many scenes that you look forward to every minute of screentime he has (as he’s about the only uncrooked character of the lot).
Worthington and Morassi make appealing young leads with a genuine chemistry, Williamson proves both chilling and hilarious in some scenes with one in particular (his attributing the Vietnam War as being all about the heroin trade) surprisingly believable and creepy. The only real downside is William McInnes whose does his best with what is ultimately a rather flat role.
The two shiners of the supporting cast though are Collette and Neill. There’s many a scene where she’s doing something very simple, like meeting the American duo, and yet she does it with such a sense of laid back aloofness one moment and frighteningly tough conviction the next (such as her final conversation with Margaret) that she comes out of the project as a class act and with what is arguably her most memorable performance since ‘Muriel’. Neill perfectly underplays some ridiculous stuff as the corrupt Detective Seargeant and yet has the gravitas to pull it off – resulting in some of the film’s best dark comedy despite a limited amount of onscreen time.
Action is a plenty in this, from a street chase where sh*t barrels come into play to some very violent gun firing action. At times the cinematography is over the top with lots of camera twirls and shots such as a fly through a bullet hole in a wild pig which are unnecessary for anything other than a visual trick. Still the overall look is skilfully pulled off with very 60’s outfits, decor (check out the wallpaper in the home scenes) and skilfully edited together sequences which never lose you despite a lot of jumping around. The soundtrack is filled with an excellent use of 60’s songs and hard core rock anthems which keep things pumping, the opening rolling slot credits and global-jumping action add pace and help hook us in right from the start.
That’s the strongest thing Caesar has done here – whether it be the almost other worldly look (this was the 60’s after all), the superb performances or overall tight story, your pulled into the action and rarely if ever are let go. The pace does wear out a little toward the end, especially in a very gory shootout sequence and some gross out gags in the outback. A running gag about pizza is fun but slightly unbelievable, whilst some of the humour may not translate overseas, but nevertheless it holds your attention throughout. Its funnier and darker than “Two Hands”, much better written than “The Hard Word” and much more stylish than “Snatch”. One of the year’s highlights.