Dir: Michael Winner, 1993
This review is of the uncut version
Misandric sleaze fest or good old fun?
Bella (Lia Williams) has just moved to Brighton after finding out her fiancee is cheating on her.
Starting afresh, she looks forward to a new life. Until, that is, she sees the pervert who lives opposite her.
Tim (Rufus Sewell) watches her through the window, steals her underwear and masturbates in front her while making obscene phone calls to her. In the phone calls, he threatens to rape her.
Frightened, Bella contacts the police who say that they can’t do anything.
She visits Nimrod (Ian Richardson), a clairvoyant, who tells her that she must make a stand against Tim and gives her a knife.
Sneaking into Tim’s flat late one night, she brutally bludgeons him to death with a hammer.
Feeling liberated, Bella takes it upon herself to rid the country of perverts.
Drinking at a bar, she sees an obese business man, Norman (Michael Cule from children’s T.V show, Knightmare), who buys her a drink.
Going back to his hotel room for sex, she laughs at him when he loses his erection. Infuriated and embarrassed, Norman slaps her.
Suggesting something kinky, Bella ties the fat man to a chair and suffocates him with a plastic bag.
The incident with Norman has left her with a broken tooth, so she calls the private dentist, Reggie, (David McCallum) to get it fixed.
Once the tooth is fixed, the dentist offers her a lift home but, instead, takes her to a underground car park where he ties her up and makes her perform fellatio on him.
Having climaxed, Reggie goes away to urinate, leaving the keys in the cars ignition. Seizing the opportunity, Bella starts the car and drives it into him, killing her attacker.
Deciding she needs a gun, she buys one from a shady dealer and scours Brighton in search of rapists and perverts.
Three yuppies (Sean Pertwee, Christopher Ryan and Nicholas Hewetson) stagger out of a pub and find a homeless woman. They begin to torment her before setting her on fire.
But, Bella sees this and shoots them dead before they are able to do anything to homeless woman.
Feeling that her work is done, Bella throws the gun of of Brighton Pier into the sea. However, a serial sex attacker is on the loose and accosts her.
Using the knife that Nimrod gave her, she stabs the attacker and flees.
Moving to the big city that is London, Bella alights a train ready to carry on her work.
So, basically, it’s a female Death Wish, director Michael Winner’s most famous film.
Based on the book by Helen Zahavi, Winner and Zahavi herself wrote the screenplay following the book very closely.
It’s not a masterpiece, but it was never meant to be. Winner intended it to be fun and succeeeds.
Aside from Meir Zarchi’s 1978 classic I Spit On Your Grave, it’s not the first time that a female vigilante film has been attempted. Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45, Lipstick and Extremities have tackled the subject of revenge but they have taken a more serious route. Winner goes for comic fashion.
Women get a bit of a raw deal in films. More often than not, they are portrayed as the victims, weak and helpless.
Well, this is Winner’s attempt to even the score a little.
Bella is strong. She refuses to be a victim. The heroine of the film. All the men are depicted as wannabe rapists, unable to keep the base instincts at bay.
That’s not misandry or misogony. It’s just turning the tables on Hollywood tradition.
It’s really good fun. Lia Williams is sexy and a bad ass in equal measure.
To be fair, there are one or two dodgy points.
The script can be a bit clunky, and Williams sometimes comes across as amateurish but Rufus Sewell as the pervert is worringly convincing and is adept at making your skin crawl.
No stranger to controversy or censorship, Winner’s Dirty Weekend ran into a few stumbling blocks with the British censors.
Amazingly, the cinema version was passed uncut but the video was withheld a certificate for a short while.
Eventually, the board agreed to pass the film but only after heavey cuts were made; 1 min and 22 secs to precise.
As is often the case with censorship, the cuts were not removed smoothly and there a few jarring jumps.
The first cuts were to the hammer blows on Sewell’s head. They were reduced significantly and now amount to no more than, maybe, two whereas the uncut had at least ten. The excised footage explained why Bella suddenly has blood all over her.
Following this was Norman’s suffocation. The bag tied around his head and his subsequent struggles for air was shortened.
Finally, Reggie forcing Bella to give him oral sex was cut. The uncut version had shots of her head in his lap, which were taken out for the UK video release. A further shot of Bella vomiting semen was also removed.
The vomiting shot is a strange cut to make as it showed Bella in clear distress and torment over what happened. It also adds fire to our acceptance of her revenge.
Nevertheless, the scenes were cut and the video passed ’18’.
Satellite television station, Sky, screened the film on one of their movie channels but actually played the uncut version.
Sky were known to frequently transmit the BBFC approved cinema versions on their channels instead of the video approved ones and this was one such example.
Now this a caused a ridiculous situation where the official censors were refusing to let the British public see some things but you could legally watch it on telly!
All it did was embarrass the board for their over zealous behaviour and treatment of the film.
In 2006, a DVD was released but, alas, to save costs Universal simply transferred the video version straight onto disc. No widescreen, no uncut version, no resubmission to the board, nothing.
Maybe one day, a distributor will pick it up and give it the attention it deserves.
It’s a great revenge thriller with touches of black comedy that stop it from being bogged down and too heavy.
Williams is more than a match for Bronson.