Bella (Lia Williams) has had a bad experience recently with her boyfriend: after his birthday party he had told her he simply wanted to go and sleep off the effects of the alcohol he'd consumed, but the morning after when she turned up at his flat to greet him, she found another woman there. That was the end of that as far as she was concerned, and now she has decided to move from London to Brighton in the hope of a change. She has had enough of just about everybody except her best friend Marion (Miriam Kelly), and wants to work from home and go out as little as possible...
But that's easier said than done when there are certain people keen to make her part of their lives whether with her consent or without it - and in these cases, it'll be without it. Having found herself a basement flat which seems nice enough, the catch soon becomes appparent when she begins to receive nuisance phone calls, then notices the caller is her creepy neighbour (Rufus Sewell) who spends his days spying on her through her window - even when the curtains are drawn (it's not exactly clear how he manages that). Then the calls become more threatening and an ex-copper acquaintance of Marion's husband essentially tells her there's nothing she can do.
Now, alarm bells should be ringing here because if this were real life, the police would be down like a ton of bricks on a serious harrassment case such as this - the creepy caller is very graphic in his menaces - but director Michael Winner and his co-writer Helen Zahavi (who penned the original novel) evidently had their own ideas about what in this filmmaker's methods would unavoidably be compared with his seventies vigilante favourite Death Wish. So the deck is stacked against poor old Bella from the start, with even the ex-copper attempting to assault her, until she visits a clairvoyant and he offers her a purpose in life by telling her most people are either spectators, murderers or victims, so she has to make up her mind which will apply to her. If you can't guess, you're watching the wrong movie.
Of course, given that the clairvoyant is played by Ian Richardson of all people, and he's supposed to be Iranian, which means black contact lenses, brown face paint and a dodgy accent, you would have likely been taking this with a pinch of salt well before the murders began, but Dirty Weekend was weirdly unpersuasive anyway. It could have been the way in which Winner's methods had devolved from its stylish qualities in the sixties to what in the nineties looked like staff training video production values, leaving whatever happened with an appearance of crushing mundanity no matter what was occurring onscreen, but while you could immediately tell this was a British effort, in the manner it aspired to be more ambitious its drawbacks saw those aims missed by a country mile.
Bella, played by Williams as if in a state of permanently suppressed annoyance, isn't quite the Charles Bronson clone you might expect, for Winner was in right-on mode, which in practice meant a support for women's rights delivered in the thumping unsubtlety of your average "It's the only language they understand" pub bore, except that said bore would likely be the target of Bella's machinations. Once she's seen to it that her unwanted caller will never phone again - a hammer to the noggin will do that - she gets a taste for giving male chauvinist pigs what for and has soon acquired a handgun, though she doesn't use that right away. She goes a-hunting in a serial killer fashion for her next victim and picks up a morbidly obese lecturer (Michael Cule) who tests audience tolerance levels by being naked in his hotel room for most of his screen time, then suffocates him with a plastic bag. More mayhem follows involving the slumming likes of David McCallum, but by that stage you'll have twigged we're supposed to be revelling in the violence more than thinking through the feeble message. Music by David Fanshawe, including odd snoring noises.