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Dirty Little Trick (2011)

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Score: 3/10

Genre: Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 18 min.

Release Date: April 1st, 2011 (Phoenix Film Festival) MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Brian Skiba Actors: Dean Cain, Christie Burson, Michael Madsen, Tiffany Shepis, Nicola Victoria Buck, Laurie Love, Jessica Duffy, Alexandria Ballesteros

W

hile the plot, characters, and dialogue are all treated seriously in “Dirty Little Trick,” several artistic choices and a few overly stereotyped caricatures stifle the momentum of this crime thriller. The black and white palette works well to evoke a noir appeal, yet the “Sin City” style effect of popping colors offers a mismatched patchwork in its execution. Skin, clothing, and accessories oftentimes feel appropriate in their splashy hues, but colored passing taxis, random building signs, and shrubbery distract from the more pressing action filling the screen. The proverb “less is more” applies, and fewer diversions from the monochromatic display would have allowed focus on truly important details. The nonlinear timeline also presents a quandary as repetition and backtracking causes more confusion than actual revelations for both the characters and the audience. Potential isn’t absent however, and it’s clear that actress Christie Burson revels in her dangerous seductress persona while Michael Madsen finds himself at home exuding the eccentricity of a crazed mobster.

Mild-mannered film editor Michael Anderson (Dean Cain) can’t leave lone hitchhiker Sarah (Christie Burson) out in the scathing Arizona desert when he sees her on his way home. Believing she is running from a bad breakup with a deadbeat boyfriend, Michael brings Sarah back to his place for protection – but after the libidinous coquette seduces him, he finds himself trapped in her perilous web of lies and deceit. When a disgruntled gangster (Michael Madsen) comes looking for stolen money and a cocky police detective (Dominic Ross) suspects him of murder, Michael realizes he’s been set up and must track down the mysterious temptress before it’s too late.

Of all the glaring problems faced by the filmmakers, no other predicament meddles more intrusively than the soundtrack. Whether it’s a matter of sound mixing, effects editing, levels, frequency, composition, or purely selection, a distinct aural confusion is apparent. With overconfidence perhaps more than uncertainty, the range is decisive but flawed, bullying the more important subjects into the background of artistic arrangement. The fact that the notes never let up, continually transitioning from romantic to suspenseful to mere accompaniment, lends to the overall unnatural abrasiveness.

With juvenile camerawork, generic dialogue, and insincere actions, the redeeming light is Dean Cain and Christie Burson, both of whom appear marginally comfortable in their roles. Joe Jones gives off a New Jersey Liam Neeson vibe, while Michael Madsen can’t help but play himself, handed a familiar crime boss persona with tongue-twisting insults and contrary mood swings. Most of the supporting cast screams of inexperience, with an exaggeration on mysteriousness – of which the story presents nearly none.

If it weren’t bad enough that clerks, bodyguards, and detectives seem stiff, inconsequential, and generally uneasy, and that sex scenes play out with participants remaining fully clothed, the lack of genuine mystery is irritating at best. Instead of luring the audience in with the disorienting timeline and cutaways from character shock, the only puzzlement is handed to Michael in the film, not the viewers who are in on the scheme entirely too much. Rather than solving a conundrum as the leads uncover clues, viewers are given every indication and each solution far in advance, leaving nothing to ponder except why the murder-mystery perplexity vanished from the get-go.

– The Massie Twins

 



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