Raw, edgy, gritty, dangerous – whatever you want to call it, we're a long way from Jerry Maguire, Rat Race and (shudder) Boat Trip. Dirty is being billed as Cuba Gooding Jr.'s return to serious acting – a bid to reclaim lost glory, if you will. Gooding stars as the thoroughly corrupt LAPD officer Salim Adel, a loud, crude and utterly reprehensible cop partnered with Officer Armando Sancho (Clifton Collins Jr.), a former Hispanic gangbanger turned law enforcer, who's recently been stricken by a crisis of conscience, following the accidental shooting of an innocent bystander.
Director Chris Fisher's Dirty follows Salim and Armando over the course of one tense, violent day, as the two cops shepherd 13 kilos of cocaine to a local dealer, Baine (musician Wyclef Jean), meet with their likewise corrupt superiors Captain Spain (Keith David) and his lieutenant (Cole Hauser) and harass unsuspecting citizens. It's unfortunate for Fisher's film, but the narrative pales in comparison to the equally nihilistic Denzel Washington vehicle Training Day – while Gooding's performance is solid and light years ahead of his more recent work, he doesn't quite possess the grim charisma with which Washington infused his Oscar winning turn.
As Dirty progresses, the narrative escalates yet, paradoxically, you keep waiting for something to happen as Armando slides ever deeper into his moral crisis – coupling a needlessly protracted finale with a somewhat overblown ending, Fisher and co-screenwriters Gil Reavill and Eric Saks fashion a pretty accomplished indie flick but can't shake the shadow of Training Day or the rather indifferent feeling that's left at the conclusion of Dirty. Trolling the seamier side of Los Angeles, Cuba Gooding Jr. crackles with an energy he hasn't really displayed since Boyz N The Hood and takes his first steps on the comeback trail, although Clifton Collins Jr.'s performance certainly isn't disposable either. Dirty doesn't break any new ground, but rather travels some well-plowed earth, arriving at an entirely unsurprising destination.
Dirty is presented with a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that is sharp, yet suffuse with high contrast and quite a lot of grain – Eliot Rockett's jittery, evocative cinematography is inherently grimy, so it's to Sony's credit that the DVD only boasts some faint edge enhancement and no other noticeable defects. A pretty solid image.
From the opening scenes of Dirty, I thought the room was going to fly apart, thanks to the thunderous Dolby Digital 5.1 track – all rumbling bass and immersive surround activity, this is one dynamic mix that leans heavily on a rap-centric soundtrack and startling gunfire. A Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 track is included, as is a French Dolby 2.0 stereo track. English, French, Chinese, Korean, Portguese, Spanish and Thai subtitles are also included.
Fisher and Rockett sit for a low-key but informative commentary track, with seven deleted scenes, playable separately in time-coded, non-anamorphic widescreen also on board; the nine minute, 47 second, fullscreen "Gettin' Dirty" featurette details the film's premiere; a four minute, two second skateboarding/breakdancing featurette is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen; the "Chump" music video by Oh No is offered up in non-anamorphic widescreen with trailers for Hostel, End Game, The Net 2.0, The Hunt For Eagle One, Chasing Ghosts, The Confessor, The Russian Specialist, The Detonator, Second In Command, The Memory of a Killer and The Cutter completing the disc.
Cuba Gooding Jr. unearths his dark side with a venomous turn as an utterly corrupt cop in Chris Fisher's police thriller Dirty; paling in comparison to the likewise grim Training Day, this handsomely mounted indie is fitfully entertaining but worth only a cursory spin. Rent it.