What plays like a reworking of a 1930s gangster film sans Cagney, O’Brien and/or Robinson holds together well enough, thanks to Kevin Dobson’s patented tight-jawed acting and John Ashton’s surefire work as Dobson’s shifty partner of l5 years. Aside from Dobson’s 15-year blind faith in the unsavory character played by Ashton, “Dirty Work” totes up points for both actors.
Kicked off the police force thanks to Ashton’s crooked actions, Dobson and Ashton are now bail bondsmen. Dobson’s in debt over alimony; Ashton, ever the loser and now involved in selling narcotics, has been hooked by the mob.
Killing his pusher, Ashton unwittingly steals counterfeit bills from the pusher’s corpse and passes them to Dobson.
The fat’s in the fire when Dobson, dating the pusher’s sister Roxann Biggs, hands her a pack of the queer dough.
Familiar gang muscle arrives in the form of cane-bearing Jim Byrnes and his boss, the unbending Mitchell Ryan.
Ryan has to decide who’s crossing him, Ashton or Dobson, and the test is the climax of the vidpic.
An absurd chase in which a sub-machine gun-toting gunsel spits bullets at Dobson without ever hitting him does little to build credibility, but the Dobson-Ashton partnering is sound, and the teleplay’s development compact and secure.
In his best perf since “Hardhat and Legs,” Dobson makes Aaron Julien’s hero a loyal, earnest pal instead of a chump–and that isn’t easy in this setup.
Ashton’s able to make the crumb he’s playing almost credible enough to explain Dobson’s faith in him. It’s a tough assignment.
Donnelly Rhodes as the ex-cops’ former boss wise to Ashton is solid, and Roxann Biggs as Dobson’s spirited, new-found love offers a touching glimpse of vulnerability. Jason Schombing as her brother who takes the fall is terrif.
The story’s old hat–or next door to it–and the characters are scarcely new. But director John McPherson brings off an involving, often energetic, variation on early crime films.
Production looks good, with David Geddes’s camerawork effective and designer Douglas Higgins’ work resourceful. Other tech credits are way up there.