Friday, June 10, 2011

Dirty Work (1998)

Who says crime doesn't pay?
The Revenge business seems to....

- Dirty Work opens with a child in the opening scenes and "Full House" star Bob Saget's name under the "Director" credit - but do not be confused: Dirty Work is not a family friendly film. Starring and co-written by Norm MacDonald, Dirty Work is a stupid but hilarious buddy movie/revenge comedy.

Released in 1998, Dirty Work was the first post-"Saturday Night Live" project from Norm MacDonald. After being fired from the show by the President of NBC, Don Ohlmeyer, for supposedly not being funny (although Ohlmeyer's friendship with the two biggest butts of Norm's Weekend Update jokes, O.J. Simpson and Bill Clinton, makes one wonder if supposedly not being funny is what actually fueled the firing) Norm proves just how funny he really is with Dirty Work, something that is actually humorous and entertaining, unlike the work that his former colleagues at SNL did without him. Norm's SNL departure story is not unrelated to the film, as there is a theme arc through much of MacDonald's post-SNL projects that begins here with Dirty Work: standing up for yourself, taking control, and getting back at the people who make life miserable for you.

Revenge is certainly on Mitch Weaver's mind (MacDonald). Mitch has had it rough lately: he lost his job, his girlfriend threw him out, and Pops (Jack Warden), the father of his best friend Sam McKenna (Artie Lange), needs a new heart. Mitch and Sam have a history of being pushed around their entire lives but that never stopped them from fighting back - and boy do they fight dirty. Ever since they were kids, Mitch and Sam would get their revenge against their assailants by one-upping them in a sneaky, foul, but clever way. Now in their 30s, Mitch and Sam use their skills at getting revenge and ruining people's lives to earn money for Pops' heart transplant by doing people's dirty work.

Norm MacDonald is a great lead in the film and his dry and out-there sense of humor is what really makes the film work. Norm is not just a one-of-a-kind comedian; he is simply a one-of-a-kind screen presence. His laid-back delivery of outrageous comedy with a smirk or gleam in his eye, not to mention his unique voice, really sets him apart from all others in the comedy world and he is very enjoyable to watch here in Dirty Work.

Norm clearly runs the show but other actors make fine contributions as well. Lange is a good sidekick to Norm, playing a fat stupid loser - so, basically himself - and he does it with a certain indefinable charm. Also future "Monk" star Traylor Howard is enjoyable as Kathy, Mitch's hard-to-get love interest; Christopher McDonald is his usual comically sleazy villain self in this film; and Chris Farley is very funny (in his final film appearance) as the spastic barfly Jimmy, who had his nose bitten off by a "Saigon whore."

Screen legends are also featured on the marquee that make the film even more entertaining: Jack Warden plays Sam's dad, Pops, a horny yet impotent old curmudgeon who is prone to violent outbursts; Chevy Chase is funny as the compulsive gambling doctor in charge of getting Pops' heart; and the film holds a particularly hilarious few minutes from the great Don Rickles.

We all need our guilty pleasures when it comes to film! While it may not be an award winner, Dirty Work really makes me laugh. The featured lowbrow comedy styling of Norm MacDonald - on par with, and in most case above, the anything Sandler, Farley, Meyers, or other 90s SNL alumni were doing at the time - is deceiving because it is so mindless yet so clever and Saget really does do an excellent job creating a unique look and feel for the film.

Much of the gags may be childish, the plot might be overly silly, and it can be argued that the actors are not really acting so much as just screwing around, but that is why the film works so well! Dirty Work is brainless fun - and a lot of it.

CBC Rating: 7/10

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