Dirty Weekend 1993

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Michael Winner was an A-list British director, who made a number of decent 1960’s comedies, then hit big with Death Wish and the sequels. He turned down the chance to make everything from The French Connection to Jaws, including the James Bond franchise. His regular TV appearances made him a household name in the UK; in 2011, David Cameron did a Michael Winner impression during Prime Minister’s question time. And despite his name being synonymous with bad taste, a number of his films (The Jokers, The Sentinel ) are pretty watchable. Dirty Weekend was his second last film, and it’s a bleak reworking of the Death Wish theme, but this time from a female point of view. Adapted with Winner from her own book, Helen Zahavi’s story depicts a young woman Bella (Lia Williams) who finds herself preyed on by various seedy men in the seaside town of Brighton, and takes revenge by killing them. Amongst those she encounters are Rufus Sewell as a Peeping Tom, an Iranian clairvoyant (Star Wars star Ian Richardson in blackface) and a dentist (Man from Uncle and NCIS star David McCallum). It feels like Michael Winner made Dirty Weekend to demonstrate some kind of kinship with feminists, but the result feels like a gross appropriation. It’s hard to recommend this horrid, ill-judged film, and yet it’s unequivocal in his condemnation of misogyny, and that seems to be why it was lambasted on release, and promptly banned by the BBFC for years. It’s no hidden gem, in fact it’s tone deaf to women, but as an example of how feminists are correct to fear men co-opting their arguments, it’s not without some kind of historical interest now that it washes up, briefly one assumes, on the most polluted shores of You Tube.

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