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Sydney crim Barry (Bryan Brown) operates a healthy racket, milking illegal poker machines around some of the unregulated clubs in the late 60s. He has Detective Ray (Sam Neill) on the payroll, and a mistress, Margaret (Kestie Morassi) on the side. But his smarter-than-she-looks wife (Toni Collette) has his number. When his innocent nephew Darcy (Sam Worthington) returns from a tour of duty in Vietnam, it happily coincides with the arrival of a couple of Chicago mobsters (John Goodman, Felix Williamson) who want in on Barry’s action. Young Darcy is sent to greet them in the first move of a welcome routine that shows the Yanks what an unfair go looks like. Meanwhile, Darcy and Margaret get together behind Barry’s back – as do some of his so called loyal followers.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There are two audio commentaries: the one with director David Caesar and the producers (including Bryan Brown) and the one with Caesar and the cinematographer. The latter is more interesting, especially for anyone with a technical interest in filmmaking.

The menus are terrific, with energetic visual and musical cues, and the disc is bright, clean and has superb sound. The music score and the track selection features also carry a commentary by composer Paul Healy and are a terrific surprise; at least for me. I like musos talking about their stuff. 

Lots of extras (even some that don’t show up on the distributor’s list, like the 60 Minutes piece and a Richard Wilkins interview with Bryan) make this a good long term proposition.

The film itself is worth a revisit on DVD – it plays strongly and reminds us of the power of the small screen when it’s presented in high digital quality.

It’s not entirely clear on the evidence whether David Caesar set out to make a comedy, a crime movie or a darkly funny drama, which is perhaps why he has ended up with a film that combines all three. And that’s not surprising, given that the screenplay developed through a combination of factual research and creative script writing, with various character-forming challenges and changes along the way. And I don’t mind the fact that we are kept a little on edge about the comedy when things get serious, or that we laugh dryly when the humour shoots through a dramatic scene. For me, humour and drama are natural twins in real life, and as long as I can engage with the characters in a compelling story, I don’t care what genre or movie style they are in. With Dirty Deeds, David Caesar has stepped into the mainstream of filmmaking with an assurance worthy of international acclaim and with every cinematic tool well under his control - driven by a natural sense for what works on screen. 

Step into 1969 and see for yourself, as Bryan Brown returns to the streets of Sydney as a crim, only this time he is much darker and more complex than Pando in Two Hands. He’s as funny as Chopper was, and for the same scary reasons. In fact, the film’s tone is closer to Chopper than either Two Hands or The Hard Word, both of which play with the same sort of genre. Except for the period setting, of course, which adds a layer of nostalgic fun to the film. Toni Collette develops her character beautifully and with an angular strength that balances Bryan’s Barry, while Sam Worthington and Kestie Morassi are outstanding in crucial support roles, as are Goodman and Williamson playing the two very different but credible mobsters. The script zings, the cast sings and the music rocks.

Published February 13, 2003

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CAST: Bryan Brown, Toni Collette, John Goodman, Sam Neill, Sam Worthington, Kestie Morassi, Felix Williamson, Andrew S. Gilbert, William McInnes

DIRECTOR: David Caesar

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

PRESENTATION: English 5.1; English Stereo; Widescreen 1.85:1/16:9 enhanced

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by director/screenwriter David Caesar, star/producer Bryan Brown, producer Deborah Balderstone; Audio commentary by DoP Geoffrey Hall and David Caesar; Audio commentary by music composer Paul Healy; photo gallery; talent profiles; web-link; trailer; picture disc; ‘Get Dirty’ – 30 minute behind the scenes documentary; outtakes; behind-the-music featurette with rock band ‘U Am I’ and cast/crew; ‘Jump to a song’ – to favourite songs from soundtrack; interviews with Bryan Brown & Toni Collette; Sam Worthington’s pizza tips;

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: February 12, 2003

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