Dirty Work

Memphis Flyer


REVIEWED: 06-22-98

Playing on the old theme of the scorned getting back at their scorners, Norm Macdonald and Artie Lange wreak havoc in Dirty Work. The two appear as close friends, Mitch and Sam, who never even made a hairline fracture into the realm of popularity, but always had each other to kick around. Mitch (Macdonald) is the dominant one, thin and wiry, while gut-toting, sensitive Sam (Lange) seems to take Mitch’s loving abuse in stride.

As the movie opens, we learn that neither Mitch nor Sam can hold a job or a girlfriend. Sam lives with his dad. Mitch has just been kicked out of his girlfriend’s apartment and life. Neither has any type of future plan. This changes rapidly, however, when Sam’s dirty-old-man father, played well by Jack Warden, has a heart attack. Because he is low-priority on the heart transplant list, and his doctor, Dr. Farthing, played by Chevy Chase, is a compulsive gambler, Mitch and Sam can only score a heart for Pops by raising $50,000, a debt Farthing owes to a bookmaker.

It is this quest that drives Mitch and Sam to their one natural talent – creative revenge. They experiment with various jobs, and learn that they are not the only ones consistently stepped upon. They are, however, the only ones with nothing to lose.

One of the weaker parts of the film is the budding romance between Mitch and his neighbor, Kathy, played by Traylor Howard. It is unnecessary and underdeveloped. We see them together for less than 15 minutes total, and they go from saying hello to Kathy feeling betrayed by his actions. I expected her to scream, “I trusted you!” and run into an alleyway, hand across her brow.

One great feature of the film is the work of the costume designer, Beth Pasternak, who recently worked on the acclaimed indie film The Sweet Hereafter. Every scene is in vibrant, mostly primary colors, right down to the pillows on the couch. Mitch and Sam always wear cobalt blue, fire-engine red, or canary yellow. Kathy sports magenta and lilac. The colors help maintain the frantic atmosphere of the movie.

If anyone hasn’t noticed, Saturday Night Live exes tend to appear in one another’s films. Dirty Work includes cameos by Chevy Chase, Chris Farley, and Adam Sandler. All contribute to the script, which at times needs a little help. Obviously, the movie is set up to be a risque comedy, which it is not. Dirty Work is a formula: SNL comics + average plot + toilet humor (literally, there’s a joke involving a toilet). It is not a bad representation of this formula. In fact, there are some scenes which make me laugh thinking about them now, but I can count them on one hand, and that’s probably not good.

Norm Macdonald is what he is. He’s a comedian, but he pulls off his role in his own overly deliberate and funny way. Artie Lange is a much more rounded actor, having had supporting roles in Jerry Maguire, Father’s Day, and Jungle Fever. Long story short: If you liked Happy Gilmore, Black Sheep, or Tommy Boy, you’ll probably enjoy this movie.

--Meredith Pierce

Capsule Reviews
Dirty Work
Dirty Work
Dirty Work

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