I should know by now that seeing John Goodman listed in the credits is a near perfect indicator that I am going to end up not enjoing a film. This is true even when the film is set in Australia, as here, which automatically gives a film bonus points because I have an irrational attachment to the land Down Under and is not particularly connected to whether Goodman does the business or not.
Dirty Deeds is set in 1969 Sydney, where young Darcy has returned from a tour in ‘Nam and mobsters Tony (Goodman) and Sal have arrived from Chicago bearing a prototype video slot machine. Plus $2 million US in cash to buy their way into control of the flourishing slots business, currently controlled by Darcy’s uncle and surrogate father Barry (Bryan Brown). Barry’s married to Sharon (one of my favorites, Toni Collette) and sleeping with Margaret (the gorgeous Kestie Morassi), who lives in the apartment next door to Darcy. Of course the two youngsters fall for each other, particularly after Collette puts the facts of life to Morassi. Sam Neill, who I quite enjoyed in a recent run of old Reilly: Ace of Spies episodes, is a corrupt police detective giving cover to the gangsters.
Not an unreasonable setup, but writer/director David Caesar doesn’t give enough emphasis to any of the various plots to bring them to life except the Darcy/Margaret romance. Brown’s characer gets most of the best lines with Collette getting one or two good scenes. Neill is wasted and the two visiting mafia soldiers are cardboard stereotypes. If I had to guess I’d probably have cut out the subplot where Brown is being challenged by another local wiseguy.