Chris Fisher’s Dirty is clumsier and less earnest than Crash, but it’s every bit as totalitarian; the director’s idea of how racial hostility arises, expresses itself, and passes through Los Angeles is a fantasy only a person who’s never been the target of an ethnic slur could possibly mistake for truth. Cuba Gooding Jr.‘s Salim Adel, a cop who follows the same boogie-man playbook used by Denzel Washington in Training Day and Matt Dillon in Crash, is teamed with Armando Sancho (Clifton Collins Jr.), a former gang member haunted by the shooting death of an old man Salim killed during the scene of a crime, on a mission that has them rubbing shoulders with the city’s black and brown lowlifes. While Sancho’s guilt wears on his conscience in the form of the old man’s jittery, wrinkled corpse (delusions straight out of The Ring that betray any pretense to reality the film often fronts), Salim busies himself scaring the shit out of white people looking for directions out of the film’s metropolis of evil and stuffing his fingers inside a Latina girl’s panties in order check if her cherry’s been popped. The man’s lack of decorum is matched only by that of Fisher’s aesthetic: choppy editing conjures the illusion of urgency, handheld camerawork strains for a faux sense of on-the-fly realism, and tribal music (like Crash‘s Middle Eastern chants) condescendingly highlights a crucial moment of desperation. The film is a strange brew: an inquisition of racial and authority conflict with a J-Horror mindset. Like Paul Haggis before him, Fisher has fashioned an epic miscalculation.
Dirty looks great for a film that was probably financed with all the money inside Cuba Gooding Jr.'s pocket during shooting. The film-like presentation is pleasantly grainy with very little in the way of dirt and edge enhancement to detract from the viewing experience. All the sound recorded on the set, namely the dialogue, is a little sketchy, but all the post-production work, like the music, is positively booming. Guess Gooding Jr. grew bigger pockets after the shoot wrapped.
Chris Fisher is a smart guy. I know this because, in a series of email exchanges we had a while back, he took my criticism of his film very well-better than I ever could have if the tables had been turned. Knowing this, I'm sure he won't mind if I dog him a bit for pandering to test audiences. Around the time the Rita character gets felt up by Salim, Fisher and his director of photography Eliot Rockett discuss how some of the scenes pertaining to her backstory were left on the cutting room floor because test audiences were bored by them. The scenes they speak of don't appear to be included among the deleted scenes showcased on the disc (all I saw was a lousy post-feel-up scene by a water fountain and a silly pre-shoot-'em-up makeup-applying scene on a bus), but if such character nuance is being left out of the movie and silly J-horror-esque moments of terror are being kept in, that sounds like pandering-no matter what Fisher has to say. The people who are marketing this disc know it too: it's why the disc's interactive menus come to us in English and Thai and there's seven subtitle options. Also included here is a "Chump" music video by Oh No, footage from the film's premiere (featuring some interesting interview insights from Clifton Collins Jr.), a reasonably cool skateboarding/breakdancing featurette, and a bunch of previews.
Is the film dirty enough for Redman to not clean his act up?