Dirty Pretty Things
The luminous Audrey Tautou (Amelie) stars in Dirty Pretty Things, a riveting thriller about an illegal immigrant in London named Okwe (Chiwetal Ejiofor, Amistad), a doctor in his homeland who now works days as a taxi driver and nights as a hotel desk clerk. When a hooker tells him there’s a mess in one of the hotel’s bathrooms, Okwe finds a human heart in the toilet. He soon discovers a snare of desperation, poverty, and black-market body organs—and finds that his only friend, a Turkish hotel maid (Tautou), may be the next to be caught.…
The luminous Audrey Tautou (Amelie) stars in Dirty Pretty Things, a riveting thriller about an illegal immigrant in London named Okwe (Chiwetal Ejiofor, Amistad), a doctor in his homeland who now works days as a taxi driver and nights as a hotel desk clerk. When a hooker tells him there’s a mess in one of the hotel’s bathrooms, Okwe finds a human heart in the toilet. He soon discovers a snare of desperation, poverty, and black-market body organs—and finds that his only friend, a Turkish hotel maid (Tautou), may be the next to be caught. Dirty Pretty Things, skillfully directed by Stephen Frears (High Fidelity, Dangerous Liaisons, My Beautiful Laundrette), fuses taut suspense with an unsettling portrait of life among the British underclass of immigrant service workers. Thanks to the excellent cast and script, the movie makes its social points subtly, while the gripping story coils itself around you. —Bret Fetzer
With Dirty Pretty Things Stephen Frears (The Grifters) gives us a dark gritty film examining London’s seedier underbelly. Oscar nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor is Okwe, a Nigerian doctor who fled to Britain after the death of his family. So far he has evaded capture by the authorities and successfully held down two jobs as a taxi driver and night porter in a downmarket hotel. But all this changes when he finds a human heart blocking a toilet in one of the rooms and discovers his manager is running an organ trafficking operation offering illegal immigrants passports for organs. The plot then follows a well-trodden thriller path as Okwe wrestles with his conscience and also the growing affections of Turkish asylum seeker Senay (Audrey Tautou).
Ejiofor and Tautou give incredibly affecting performances as the disenfranchised inhabitants of the capital city and the plot is harrowing without being sensationalist. The only disappointment is the black-and-white morality that holds the film together. In a drama that sets out to challenge our perceptions and prejudices, the inappropriately Hollywood ending is a letdown that does nothing to raise this film above being a stock thriller, albeit of the more intelligent kind. —Kristen Bowditch
Barnes and Noble
Stripped to its basics, Dirty Pretty Things is a thriller involving the black-market trade in human organs removed from impoverished but willing victims. But in telling the story, director Stephen Frears paints a much richer picture than a typical thriller: His bleak depiction of contemporary London shows a city where members of the immigrant working class toil for low wages in menial positions and suffer extraordinary indignities just for the privilege of making a living in a free country. One such person is Okwe (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), an exiled Nigerian doctor who drives a cab by day and mans a hotel desk by night. His roommate Senay (Audrey Tautou) works as both a maid and a sweatshop garment worker, and she’s sorely tempted to sell one of her kidneys to the hotel bell captain, “Sneaky” (Sergi Lopez). Sneaky runs an organ trade that is thriving because his donors are the poorest illegal immigrants, people who don’t dare go to the authorities for fear of being deported. London here is not the city of Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, and bustling pubs; it’s a city of shabby tenements, run-down factories, and grimy markets. With the exception of some immigration officials, the characters are all foreign nationals, some of whom believe their lengthier tenures in England entitle them to bully and brutalize the newer arrivals. Screenwriter Stephen Knight received an Oscar nomination for this gripping, original story, and it’s not hard to see why. Although dark and dingy throughout, Dirty Pretty Things is a bright cinematic gem. Ed Hulse