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Dirty Deeds

Release date: July 18, 2002
Directed by: David Caesar
Written by: David Caesar
Produced by: Deborah Balderstone, B. Brown
Running time: 110 minutes

Barry Ryan (Bryan Brown), a prominent gangster whose ruthlessness rivals some of the toughest in the trade, lives with his downbeat wife, Sharon (Toni Collette), and their son, but spends the majority of his time either with fellow mobsters. Ryan's business is threatened when a Chicago Mafia boss dispatches two of his goons (John Goodman, Felix Williamson) to scope out the poker machine scene for a potential takeover. Negotiating with the Americans will be difficult enough for Barry, but the real blow comes when he learns that one of his own gang members has been deceitful.

Cast & Characters

Bryan Brown (Barry Ryan), Toni Collette (Sharon Ryan), John Goodman (Tony Testano), Sam Neill (Detective Sergeant Ray Murphy), Sam Worthington (Darcy), Kestie Morassi (Margaret), William McInnes (Hollywood), Andrew S. Gilbert (Norm), Gary Waddell (Freddie), Felix Williamson (Sal Cassela)

Production Notes

Dirty Deeds was an ambitious project – an attempt to make a modern, mainstream gangster film, but in a vernacular Australian style. The period setting points to the film’s underlying questions about Australia’s cultural identity – it is about the point at which Australia’s relationship with the US is about the change forever. The young character Darcy has returned from taking part in the US-led war in Vietnam. He declares that the US won’t win that war, because they would have to kill every man, woman and child in Vietnam. Barry Ryan’s own campaign against US aggression becomes a kind of guerrilla war too, in which John Goodman’s character comes to the same conclusion – Australian crime is too hard to penetrate because they’re all in it together. At the same time, the film suggests that the tide of Americanisation was nevertheless irresistible – these characters haven’t even heard of pizza. Modern audiences under a certain age in Australia probably found it difficult to believe that there was a time when we didn’t have pizza.

The film was partly inspired by an infamous photograph, which shows a prominent Sydney criminal, the late Lennie McPherson, on a pig-shooting trip with two American mafiosi in Northern NSW in the late 1960s. The plot is a supposition, based on extensive research, rather than fact. The Roosevelt Club did exist, but it was closed down in 1944, for example. The influx of money that came with American servicemen on leave – in both the Second World War and the American war in Vietnam – had far-reaching effects on Australian crime, though, especially in the drug trade in the late 1960s in Kings Cross, the area in which the first half of the film is set.

Awards & Nominations

☆   Film Critics Circle of Australia – Best Supporting Actress