Dirty Work (Bad City) (2006)

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 02/17/06 10:45:19

"Never trust a film where the Chicago Mob is run by Doc Hopper's flunky."
1 stars (Sucks)

About as sordid a mess as you are likely to encounter anytime soon, “Dirty Work” is a gracelessly cynical and ugly (in every sense of the word) film in which the lives of a disparate group of people intertwine in the strange and violent ways that will be wearily familiar to anyone who has tried to watch a post-“Pulp Fiction” crime drama.

The characters here include a corrupt cop (Lance Reddick) with massive gambling debts (not to mention a daughter so potentially trampy that she–gasp!–has a navel piercing), an aging mob leader (Austin Pendleton–yes, Austin Pendleton), an ambitious politician (Mike McGlone) and an innocent Russian maid in the country illegally (Nutsa Kukhianidze, the girl who made such a striking impression in “The Good Thief”) Here, the mobster’s mistress, who is also sleeping with the cop, turns up dead and the cop, who is essentially owned by the mobster, tries to pin the crime on someone else in order to buy his freedom. The politician, in a neck and neck election, tries to use the case for his own gain but is hamstrung when he “accidentally” kills his drunken wife and tries to make it look like a copycat killing, not realizing that the cop has already arrested a patsy. The maid inadvertently learns that it was the mobster who really ordered the woman’s death–unaccountably, he blabs this to a flunky even though he and the flunky both know that she is in the next room–and find herself running for her life. Eventually, she looks for protection from the corrupt cop but will he save her or turn her over to the bad guys in order to save his own skin?

Pretty much a wash from start to finish, “Dirty Work” follows these unpleasant and uninteresting characters through the unpleasant, uninteresting and unlikely circumstances but writer-director Bruce Terris never comes up with any reason why we should care about what happens to any of them. The genius of a film like “Pulp Fiction” is that while it came up with plenty of colorful dialogue and bizarre situations for its characters, Quentin Tarantino also managed to come up with fully rounded characters whose fates viewers became completely engrossed we–we genuinely cared about whether or not John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson got that car cleaned up in time or whether Bruce Willis retrieved his precious watch. Here, the characters remain two-dimensional cliches throughout and only Kukhianidze and Pendleton are able to make much of an impression thanks to their distinctive personalities. And yes, there are a number of ironic plot twists, leading up to an oh-so-clever conclusion, but they are the kind of surprise developments that any first-year writing student might have come up with before thinking of something better to put into the second draft.

A quick look at IMDB shows that there have been at least 9 things made in the past with the title “Dirty Work,” including comedies featuring Norm McDonald and Laurel & Hardy (not together, I hasten to add), a documentary about people with unpleasant professions such as bull semen collectors and a couple of pornographic videos (not to mention a fairly inspired mid-1980's Rolling Stones album). I only mention this because I am almost positive that I would rather watch any one of those films in a heartbeat before sitting through this one again.

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