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Film / Dirty Work

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Revenge is sweet. (And surprisingly affordable!)

Looking for the trope? See Dirty Business.

A 1998 comedy film starring Norm Macdonald and Artie Lange, co-written by MacDonald. It was the feature directorial debut of Bob Saget (yes, that Bob Saget).

Childhood friends Mitch (MacDonald) and Sam (Lange) need $50,000 to get Sam's father a life-saving heart operation. Problem is, both are completely incompetent when it comes to holding down a job, especially one that would bring in that kind of money. That is, until they figure out they can make a living out of the one thing they're actually good at: Revenge! To be more specific, people can hire Mitch and Sam to get revenge on whatever person has annoyed them, such as a noisy neighbor, and Mitch and Sam will handle the "dirty work" of getting that revenge for them.

Dirty Work is also noteworthy for being the final film that Chris Farley appeared in following his death, although he only played a minor character without much impact on the plot rather than having a starring role.

This film provides examples of:

  • Always a Live Transmission:. Mitch and Sam interrupt a live ad for a car dealership by revealing that the cars are all "loaded with dead hookers!" (actually, Sam and Mitch hired a bunch of prostitutes to play dead), then use the stolen spotlight to advertise their own revenge-for-hire business. The commercial actually earns them a bunch of new customers.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: Mitch organizes a crack team assembled of senior citizens, homeless dudes, and "my loyal army of prostitutes" to stop Travis Cole.
  • Asshole Victim: Pretty much the entire point of Mitch's idea for a business is to hire himself out to attack assholes on behalf of the people tired of dealing with them. The film is quick to show that, however, that not every such victim actually deserves to be hit with Mitch's shenanigans, and even for those who do, things can spiral out of control.
  • Bad Boss: Don Rickles plays a movie theater manager who constantly insults his employees, to the point where they hire Mitch and Sam to help them get revenge on him. Mitch and Sam respond by screening a gay porn film to a packed house, resulting in Rickles' character being fired.
  • Beauty Inversion: Supermodel Rebecca Romijn plays the Bearded Lady.
  • Bribing the Homeless: Mitch tries to bribe some homeless men into disrupting the theater owned by the Big Bad. They initially refuse, saying they're more the beaten down by life, sad sort of homeless people rather than crazy disruptive homeless people. Mitch simply increases the bribe and they promptly start disrupting the theater.
    Mitch: Hey, homeless guys! I'll tell ya what. I'll give you a dollar each if you'll go into this building here and run around yellin' and screamin'.
    Homeless Guy #1: Uh, that's very nice, but I think what you probably need are, like, some psycho, out-of-control homeless guys?
    Homeless Guy #2: Yeah, we're more the broken, spiritless, I've-lost-the-will-to-live type homeless guys.
    Mitch: How about for two dollars? [cut to the homeless people running into the building screaming]
  • The Cameo: A veritable who's who of famous comedians and actors, new and seasoned, appear throughout, including...
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Mitch can't say "no" normally when he lies. Sam calls him on it.
  • Chainsaw Good: The off-screen drug deal fight.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Mitch's "note to self" tape recorder catches Travis Cole admitting that he deceived Mitch and Sam into getting the apartment building condemned. Also, the hallucinogenic brownies play a role in the film's climax.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: It's a movie about petty revenge.
  • Comically Missing the Point: In the theater, one man of the audience fails to realize that the production has been completely ruined by our heroes and applauds with amusement and compliments the cast as if all of the scandalous events were part of the show.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Travis Cole, who is demolishing peoples' homes to make room for his opera fascination.
  • Deadpan Snarker: It's Norm freaking MacDonald. Of course this is a trope.
  • Dirty Old Man: Pops really likes watching workout videos with ladies in them. He possesses a locket with a very dirty photograph in it.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Parodied when Mitch plays a prank that makes it appear that all the vehicles at a used car dealership have dead hookers in the trunks.
    Mitch: I've never seen so many dead hookers in my life!
    Creepy Guy: Lord knows I have.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: For a big lummox, Sam is surprisingly astute at times, like when he figures out Kathy likes Mitch because she's so pissed off at him, or when he points out how he knows when Mitch is lying.
    Sam: Did you ever kill anyone?
    Mitch: No.
    Sam: Did you ever climb Mt. Everest?
    Mitch: No.
    Sam: Okay. Did you ever say you can see why women find Sean Connery sexy?
    Mitch: Nnooooo...!
  • Evil Is Petty: Travis Cole wants the building torn down for money. Getting Mitch and Sam to do it was just for cruelty.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: When Sam provokes a bar brawl, Jimmy decides to enhance the fighting atmosphere with some appropriate music:
    Mike: Looks like there's gonna be a brawl. You playin' something good?
    Jimmy: Hell yeah! Rollin' Stones! "Street-Fightin' Man"! G! SEVEN!
    Mike: ... You just hit G-8.
    ["Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" starts playing, to Jimmy's embarrassment.]
  • Faux Affably Evil: Cole can smile and reassure you he is good while plotting to ruin your entire life for a minor mistake.
  • Fighting Irish: Pops McKenna was a professional boxer, and Sam clearly inherited his punching prowess. Kirkpatrick punches anyone who wrongs him in the stomach.
  • The Gambling Addict: Dr. Farthing even made a bet before Rocky III came out that Rocky would lose in the end. note 
  • Gone Horribly Right: A guy hires the pair to get back at some obnoxious and noisy neighbors. The pair break into the house and hide fish all over the house to stink up the place. Suddenly said neighbors arrive prompting the two to hide. The neighbors turn out to be mobsters carrying out a drug deal. One of them says "Smells like fish in here," which the others mistake for some sort of code phrase and accuse him of wearing a wire causing a brutal massacre to occur (see Sound-Only Death below). Then the employer shows up...
    Employer: That's it! The noise has GOT TO STOP! [sees the horrible carnage]...Oh my God! I never asked you to do this!
  • Groin Attack: Pops McKenna can really squeeze a pair of balls.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Kind of a funny example:
    Mitch: Are you with me?
    *dead silence*
    Mitch: Okay, are you with me based on the assumption that if I screw up, you all get to kick my ass?
    *crowd shouts enthusiastically*
  • Honking Arriving Car: Mitch subverts one of Sam's pranks, causing Sam much embarrassment, by turning to this trope. Sam decides to moon a line of people outside a movie theater as they are driving down the street. Mitch obnoxiously honks his horn to draw attention to themselves, especially Sam, only to immediately park the car directly in front of the crowd of people and promptly get out of the vehicle and walk away. Literally caught with his pants down, Sam hangs a lampshade on it when he explains to the crowd of people he mooned that Mitch was supposed to keep driving.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Hilariously inverted. At the end of the film Jimmy gets married to the Vietnamese prostitute who bit his nose off, and she's a complete psychopath.
  • Humiliation Conga: Mitch gets two. At the beginning of the film, he loses his job and has his girlfriend throw him out on the street and then his car breaks down. After his mistake about the apartment building is revealed, he loses his new girl, loses his business, gets punched in the stomach by the landlord, gets kicked out of Sam's place, and has his car robbed while he's sleeping in it. At this point, he's so defeated all he can do is ask the thief to be quiet about it so he can sleep.
  • I Banged Your Mom: Pops springs the news on Mitch that he's his father. For proof, he shows Mitch a heart locket with their photos in it. When Mitch protests that doesn't prove anything, he brings out photos of the two in the middle of sex, much to the horror of Mitch.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted. Mitch punches one of the frat boys in the face and is in a very intense amount of pain afterwards, partly because he has almost no fighting experience.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: After they find out they're half-brothers, Mitch and Sam reminisce.
    Sam: Remember in the second grade when we used those rusty soda can tops to become blood brothers? Well, it was really a bunch of trouble for nothing because we were already brothers!
    Mitch: Yeah, that's right. Hey, you remember in fifth grade when I was under the monkey bars and I sneaked a peek at your sister's underwear? You remember that? No, no, I was sneaking a peek at my own sister's underwear!
    Sam: Hahahaha, that's right! Oh yeah, and remember in the twelfth grade, you had sex with her? Ha—
    *awkward silence*
    Mitch: Okay, enough reminiscing.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Played for laughs; since it's a PG-13 movie, there's no blood or guts visible on the walls after the drug dealers massacre each other with firearms, a chainsaw and a hand grenade, but the sound effects as Mitch and Sam tiptoe out suggest the floor is absolutely covered.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Mitch finds out after Pops' heart attack that he's his father.
    Kathy: You two are brothers?
    Mitch: Yeah, it's a long story.
    Sam: My dad boned his mom.
    Mitch: Okay, it's a short story.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: A classic example; Mitch reacts to being Prison Raped as if he were a teacher chiding a gang of troublesome students for throwing water balloons at him.
  • The Masochism Tango: At the end of the film, Jimmy marries the Vietnamese prostitute who bit his nose off.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: Thanks to Travis Cole lying to him, Mitch thinks Kathy's grandmother is running a brothel.
  • Mood Whiplash: Happens as Mitch and Sam stand on a rooftop and gaze up at the stars.
    Mitch: Y'know, when I was young, my mom used to tell me that the lights we see in the sky are from stars that burned out millions of years ago. It's like life, you know? I mean, something can be one way you think all your life, and then...and then in reality it's completely different.
    Sam: Yeah...
    Man on sidewalk below: Hey! I'm gonna kill you, asshole!
    Mitch: *looks down* Sam, are you pissing off the side of the building?
    Sam: *zipping up* Sorta.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Doctor Farthing (Chevy Chase) offers to push Pops up on the heart-donor list if they'll help him pay off his gambling debts.
  • Mushroom Samba: Mitch has this after eating tainted brownies.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Mitch plays a prank on Kathy's abusive boss that damages the business and gets her fired.
  • Non-Action Guy: Mitch is really not good at any physical confrontation. After being thrown out a window during a bar fight, he even makes a Note to Self, telling him to learn to fight.
  • Nothing Is Funnier: The fish shootout is kept entirely offscreen (along with most of its grisly aftermath), with the viewer only hearing the chaos from the next room. And it's all the more hilarious for it.
  • Parallel Porn Titles: Men in Black Who Like To Have Sex With Each Other
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: The idea behind Mitch and Sam's revenge business. They'll get back at the people in your life that did you wrong.
  • Prison Rape: Happens to Mitch when he and Sam are sent to prison. Played for laughs when his reaction is is to chastise them with the same seriousness as if he were given a wedgie.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: Played for Laughs with the Prison Rape scene. Not only is the rape itself not shown, but Mitch's reaction is comically understated.
  • Rousing Speech: Parodied. Mitch gives the residents of the building a speech to convince them to aid in scheme. When they aren't suitably motivated, he adds in the bit listed in Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Running Gag:
    • Mitch's Notes to Self; actually becomes a plot point.
    • Mitch getting [literally] thrown out of various locations and smacking onto the pavement, usually with Sam calmly following behind after apparently being simply asked to leave.
  • Shady Lady of the Night: Mitch gets back at a jerkass owner of a used car lot by hiring a bunch of prostitutes to get in the trunk of his cars and pretend to be dead during the broadcast of a live television commercial. Later in the film Mitch hires the same prostitutes to act as security while getting revenge on the Big Bad.
  • The Slacker: Mitch, of course.
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy: A rare example in which it's the character actually making the analogy who gets sidetracked, to the point where the analogy isn't as much of an analogy as he thought it was:
    Dr. Farthing: Let me ask you something; are you a betting man?
    Sam: I dunno. I guess.
    Dr. Farthing: Well, if someone were taking odds on your father's bout with death, I'd bet everything I own... on death. It's a good bet. Chances are, he'll probably die.
    [Sam collapses in grief]
    Mitch: Jesus, Doc, couldn't you have prepared him a little for that?
    Dr. Farthing: Oh. Well I... I kind of thought I did, with that whole betting analogy.
  • Smug Snake: Travis Cole. No surprise given he is played by Christopher McDonald.
  • Sound-Only Death: The fish scene.
    Show this guy what we do to cops!
    Say hello to the Devil for me!
    Behind you!
    I've been hit! Pablo, kill them! Kill them!
    Make your gun spark(?) like the Devil himself!
    *More Gunshots*
    Burn in hell, you bastards!
    Oh, sweet Jesus, he's got me!
    Mark, over there! Grab it! I use it to cut firewood!
    Now you're killing me with that chainsaw!
    He took away my chainsaw, and now he's using it on me!
    Oh, God, is that a hand grenade?
    *Loud Explosion*
  • Surprise Incest: When Mitch was in high school he had sex with Sam's sister... not knowing that the three of them all have the same dad. Cue Fridge Horror from Mitch and Sam when they realize it.
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts: Dr. Farthing is demanding $50,000 because he needs to pay off his bookie. In the ending Mitch notes that after performing the operation his bookie had him beaten to death anyway.
  • Urine Trouble:
    Mitch: Sam, are you pissing off the side of the building?
    Sam: Sort of.
  • Wrong Song Gag: Jimmy the crazy bus driver tries to spice up a Bar Brawl by putting The Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" on the jukebox. In his over enthusiasm he presses the wrong button, however, and the jukebox ends up playing "Escape (the Pina Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes instead.