Shiny Shelf

Dirty Tricks DVD

By Julio Angel Ortiz on 05 April 2011

An amoral, conniving, manipulative- and possibly murdering- character. The makings of a tepid crime drama, ‘based on a true story’? Nope. We have the main character of a two-part miniseries collected on Region 1 DVD. Dubbed as a black comedy and staring Martin Clunes (of ‘Men Behaving Badly’ fame) as the aforementioned shady character, ‘Dirty Tricks’ is an adult-slanted and International Emmy-winning farce that tries to keep you guessing until the end as to what Clunes’ true intentions are.

It all starts innocently enough. Clunes’ character, a money-strapped English teacher at a school for non-English speaking adults, becomes friends with a well-to-do accountant, as they share an interest in wine. The trouble begins when the accountant’s wife begins to come on to Clunes, leading to a convoluted and bawdy affair that leads to not one, but two deaths, and Clunes on the run. The miniseries aired in 2000, and this new DVD release reintroduces the tale to a new audience. How does the story hold up after over decade?

I suppose that it is a matter of taste. While watching the miniseries, I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly was so acclaimed about the story. Clunes breaking the fourth wall to discuss his situation and proclaim his innocence to the audience is a well-worn device, and a few plot contrivances drove me nuts (such as the police search for him early on the story; they knock on the door, and after no one answers, leave. Clunes then proceeds to escape in his SUV. So these hapless police chose not to stake out the house? They just left full stop?) Most importantly, I didn’t find the story funny. I didn’t laugh once. And I tend to have a fairly dry sense of humor, but ‘Dirty Tricks’ failed to grab me. It’s entirely possible that there was a cultural gap that didn’t allow me to quite catch the subtlety of the humor.

In the end, ‘Dirty Tricks’ left me cold. It’s a story full of unlikeable characters in shady situations and moving through plot contrivances. I can’t really recommend it unless you are feeling nostalgic for early 2000s television.

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By Julio Angel Ortiz

Julio Angel Ortiz maintains his collection of curiosities at You can also Like him on Facebook as well and check out his latest writing projects.

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