We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
In three days I saw three movies in a row about crooked cops and criminals. All three movies were good to one degree or another, and all three were familiar in the same old ways: I saw guys with five o'clock shadows from the day before yesterday, and long-suffering wives, and corrupt police captains, and rotten politicians, and drug deals, and hookers and cons and ex-cons and high-speed chases and innocent bystanders and a variety of ways to die. "Dirty Work" was not the best of these films, but it was the only one with an original character. I wish every casting director in the business could see this movie and study the work of Austin Pendleton.
Pendleton is the kind of guy who when you see him in a movie, you know you've seen him before. He was the Santa with the umbrella in "Christmas with the Kranks." He has 103 other acting credits on IMDb.com, is on TV all the time, and spends half of his time on the stage. He has the wispy hair and the goofy grin and the overbite, and likes to make whimsical comments that show how smart he is. In "Dirty Work" there is a moment when he's fed up, and what does he do? Scream or snarl? No, he plops down in a chair and throws his arms up in the air and lets them fall carelessly. His body language translates as, "I've worked and I've worked with these people, and they screw it up every chance they get."
Here is where casting directors should pay close attention: The character played by Pendleton is a guy named Julian, described on the movie's Web site as "Chicago's cruelest crime boss." Yes. This Steppenwolf actor who seems born to play the office clown or the idiot in-law or the weirdo scientist plays, I repeat, Chicago's cruelest crime boss. He is the last person any casting director would consider for such a role. That is why he is such a perfect choice. All by himself, he budges "Dirty Work" out of the ordinary and brings it a kind of bizarre energy.
We expect a crime boss to look like he studied "The Godfather" and then for his graduate work studied "The Sopranos." We expect him to be hard, ugly and vicious. In another of the three movies I saw, the boss takes a guy to the hockey stadium he owns and his players bang pucks into the guy's teeth. A nice touch, but not as scary as when Julian's smile fades and he looks at his mistress, just looks at her, and you know that girl is dead.