Play Dirty is another movie that likely wouldn’t exist without The Dirty Dozen. And that’s okay. Filmmakers have been borrowing the concept (if not flat-out ripping it off) for decades with varied results. This mostly forgotten British take on the formula was one of the first, but hardly the worst.
Taking place in Africa during World War II, Captain Douglas (Michael Caine) is a petroleum engineer ordered to command a mission into German-occupied territory and blow up a major fuel station, thus tipping the scales in Britain’s favor. His team consists of war criminals led by Captain Cyril Leech (Nigel Davenport). Unlike Douglas, who tends to do things by the book, Leech is cynical and undisciplined, but far more experienced in desert warfare.
|"Yeah...you called 'shotgun'...this time."|
There are some good action sequences and the plot itself is a fairly interesting variation of The Dirty Dozen. But unlike that classic, Play Dirty is mostly bereft of engaging characters. Aside from Leech and a scavenging gay couple, none of the team are provided much of a personality. And while Caine is decent in his role, it's Davenport who gives the best performance.
Still, Play Dirty is watchable. It’s no classic and doesn’t win any awards for originality, but with tempered expectations, the film is an agreeable way to kill a few hours. And trust me…you’ve seen worse movies that copy a classic.