5-Word 365 #199 – Dirty Work

I was feeling a bit philosophical today. Keep reading; there’s a review down there somewhere.

For those not paying attention: I love movies. As far as I’m concerned, no other art form ever created by man has been so full of potential; so able to evoke such complex emotional responses, from joy, laughter, hope all the way to sadness, terror and despair, sometimes all within the same work. Paintings and sculpture can be exhilarating, no doubt about it, and music can blow your mind, but to me they are limited by only stimulating one of the senses. Live theatre comes close, but the cinema is the pinnacle for me. After more than 25 years of going, I still get a chill down my spine when the lights go down and the curtains part. It’s the closest my heathen heart will get to a religious experience.

That is one of the reasons I started this site in the first place; I wanted to share this love with other like-minded souls out there in t’interwebz-land, maybe even turn a few wanderers to the dark side as well. Despite the lack of sleep and the calluses on my fingertips, the past six and a half months have been amongst the most rewarding of my life. I have seen so many wonderful new films that have only served to reinforce this love, strengthening it to withstand the occasional misfire. And that’s what loving something (or someone) means: being able to recognise its flaws without turning your back on it. I realise that’s not the most Hallmark-friendly definition, but fuck Hallmark.

As a film scholar – talented amateur class – even the not-good films can be worthwhile experiences. Maybe they have that one actor amongst the producers’ girlfriends and director’s brother-in-law who gave a great performance that saves it from total ignominy, or a level of inadvertent comedy or pathos that makes it something to treasure. If you look further down the totem however, you will come across the true dreck. The dregs of the cinematic arts. The movies that, while watching them, you can feel a little bit of that love dying inside you. The ones that shake your faith in film to its very foundations.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Dirty Work. It’s shit.

Dirty Work

No wonder MGM went broke.

Mitch is in his thirties. He has been fired from fourteen jobs in three months and his girlfriend just threw him out. He goes to live with his life-long best friend (and secret half-brother (oops. Spoilers)) Sam and the two, after some contrivance, are encouraged to start a business offering their services as revengers for hire. If you think you’ve been wronged, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire these two gaping assholes to come along and fuck shit up on your behalf. Mitch, the tall one, is also mystically irrestistible to women (probably because Norm Macdonald – the actor who played him – also co-wrote the screenplay) while Sam, the shorter fatter one, is terminally single. Their goal with this venture is to raise $50,000 to pay off the gambling debts of a surgeon who can bump their dad up the heart transplant list. I swear I’m not making this up.

If Dirty Work had been about a couple of 15-year-olds instead of two losers in their mid-thirties it might have worked, but as it stands now it is lazy and unfunny. The script feels as if it wants to be raunchier than it is. In fact, according to an interview Chevy Chase (who played the surgeon) did with Howard Stern a few years ago, the film was written to be R-rated but MGM insisted on making it PG-13. My theory is that Macdonald and director Bob Saget deliberately sabotaged the movie in their own act of revenge for this enforced rewrite. It would at least be thematically appropriate.

This shot continues for over a minute. Neither of them move or speak. It’s the funniest bit in the whole movie.

Speaking of Saget, his direction of the film is dull and lifeless. Considering the stand-up comic and former host of America’s Funniest Home Videos is actually a film school graduate – and winner of a Student Academy Award, no less! – it is not unfair to have expected more. His shot composition shows absolutely no flair or wit or imagination at all, and the performances he gets from his cast are all flat, with the exception of the always reliable Jack Warden as Mitch and Sam’s horny but impotent Pops. Another big problem is the editing. A lot of the cuts seem to be competely arbitrary with no regard for pacing or structure. One obviously shortened scene early in the third act results in the entire climax making no sense. It is amateur hour all over the place.

When I got home from work tonight, I found that a friend of mine had sent me a link to the first episode of the new animated Black Dynamite series that was up on YouTube. That cartoon had more laughs in its theme music than Dirty Work has in its entire 81-minute running time. Do yourself a favour: stay away from this.


  1. mistylayne · July 18, 2012

    Lol, love the opening! Never saw this one but vaguely remember the cover from the video store.

    • Ryan McNeely · July 20, 2012

      I’d never even heard of it until I spotted it on Netflix. And I really wish I hadn’t…

  2. Morgan R. Lewis · July 19, 2012

    This sounds absolutely dire. Thanks for taking the bullet on this one.

    • Ryan McNeely · July 20, 2012

      No problem. I watch this crap, so you don’t have to!

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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