Posted: 01/04/2011


Dirty Tricks


by Jef Burnham

Now available on DVD from Acorn Media.

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The Acorn release marks the North American DVD debut of this award-winning, British black comedy. Dirty Tricks stars Martin Clunes (Doc Martin, Jeeves and Wooster) as Edward, a comically sociopathic social climber who becomes involved in a series of suspicious deaths. At the outset of the series, Edward is but a poor, bicycle-riding, English language tutor, but he quickly charms his way into the fold of the social elite. After making a splash at his friend Dennis’s dinner party by showing off his sensitive wine palate, an innocent remark from the drunken Dennis compels Edward to seduce his friend’s sex-starved wife, Karen. Thus, events are put in motion that find Edward on the run from the police for murders he swears he did not commit.

The bit of plot detailed above is related in but the first twenty minutes or so of the series’ approximately two and a half hour running length (which is divided into two episodes). And it’s a busy two hours indeed as bedroom humor gives way to crime caper and finally something of a police procedural. However, at a certain point, the whole thing begins to get a bit tedious. This is not to say it’ll lose your interest by any means, for it is still an engaging tale. It’s simply that, with so many threads to the story, near the end of the series we are constantly reminded of plot points past or finding old scenes reenacted anew between Edward and those characters who remain alive. And much of this comes across as tedious padding. In fact, I found much the same problem with Dirty Tricks writer Nigel Williams’ 2003 series, Fortysomething.

In 2001, Dirty Tricks won the International Emmy for Best Drama and the Certificate of Merit at the San Francisco International Film Festival. The series costars Lindsay Duncan (Doctor Who, Alice in Wonderland), Julie Graham (Bonekickers, The Sarah Jane Adventures), and Neil Dudgeon (Midsomer Murders). And special features on the release include a biography of the source material’s author Michael Dibdin, as well as cast filmographies.

Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of

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