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Dirty (April 1/06)

After a string of forgettable appearances in lackluster flicks like Snow Dogs and Boat Trip, Cuba Gooding Jr is clearly attempting to re-establish himself as an actual actor by taking on a series of gritty roles. And although Dirty isn't much better than some of his earlier efforts, one can't help but admire Gooding Jr's willingness to portray such an irredeemably nasty character.

The story revolves around two thoroughly corrupt cops - Salim Adel (Gooding Jr) and Armando Sancho (Clifton Collins Jr) - who, over the course of one particularly eventful day, interact with a variety of scumbags and perps while carrying out a highly illegal mission for their crooked captain (Keith David). Unbeknownst to Adel, however, Sancho is working with two Internal Affairs investigators (Chris Mulkey and Judy Reyes) to put a stop to his department's excessively dirty antics.

Comparisons to Antoine Fuqua's Training Day are inevitable, as the two films share more than just thematic similarities (ie both feature a genial performer stepping into the shoes of a despicable figure and both transpire almost entirely within one 24-hour period). But director and co-writer Chris Fisher doesn't seem to understand the inherent ridiculousness of his own screenplay, and frequently infuses the film with a distinctly serious and heavy-handed sort of vibe (proof of this comes early on, as Adel and Sancho harass an absurdly stereotypical wealthy white couple).

The film's convoluted and virtually impossible-to-follow storyline is exacerbated by a palpable lack of intriguing supporting characters, something that's particularly true of Wyclef Jean's sinister villain (that Jean delivers a painfully broad performance certainly doesn't help). Fisher's efforts to saturate the film with a gritty sensibility generally fall flat (the relentlessly jittery camera and Eliot Rockett's washed-out cinematography are more annoying than anything else), while the dialogue often comes off as overtly stagy and preachy.

Having said that, both Gooding Jr and Collins Jr are very effective in their respective roles and the inclusion of a third-act game of Russian Roulette does temporarily elevate the proceedings. But Dirty is, more often than not, a tedious and overwrought piece of work (one has to love the sequence midway through, though, in which the two cops encounter a group of Canadian drug dealers who end virtually every sentence with "eh" - you know, just in case we forgot they were Canadian).

out of

About the DVD: Dirty arrives on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, armed with a widescreen transfer and a fairly decent amount of bonus features (including a commentary track, deleted scenes, a music video, and more).