Dirty Pretty Things (UK; 107 min.)


directed by: Stephen Frears
starring: Audrey Tautou; Sergi López; Chiwetel Ejiofor; Sophie Okonedo

Dirty Pretty Things
 
Ivy says: "DIRTY PRETTY THINGS is the newest film by Stephen Frears (MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE). It is a thriller set in the world of illegal citizens in London and what they have to do in order to work, get citizenship, basically, survive. They work at hotels, in sweatshops, drive cabs, whatever people will let them do.

"The main character is Okwe, a refugee from Legos, who is a doctor but now has to work nearly round the clock in order to survive. Played wonderfully by Chiwetel Ejiofor, his ethics and intelligence drive the narrative structure of the film.

'Audrey Tatou is a Turkish illegal who allows Okwe to sleep on her couch when she is working. They start to build a friendship, drawn to each other by their sense of morality and goodness.

"The final centerpiece is Sergi López, who plays the hotel manager, Sneaky or Senior Juan. Returning to a villain role like WITH A FRIEND LIKE HARRY... Lopez slithers through the film, effectively exploiting anyone who he can along the way.

"I don't know that anything in the film will get awards from me at the end of the year, but the film is still strong and well-done. It tosses in some cheesy moments at the end that weren't necessary, but all in all the film is restrained and intelligent.

 

Laura says: "In the thriving metropolis of London, illegal immigrants and other dispossessed struggle to hang onto dreary existences while the better off benefit without even being aware of them. One such is Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor, AMISTAD), a hardworking Nigerian who drives cabs by day and spends his nights as a hotel receptionist. When Okwe makes a gruesome discovery in a hotel room's bathroom, his opportunistic Russian manager Sneaky (Sergi Lopez, WITH A FRIEND LIKE HARRY) waves it away, telling him 'hotels are about strangers - they come in here in the night and do dirty things - we make it pretty' in director Stephen Frears's (HIGH FIDELITY) DIRTY PRETTY THINGS.

"Frears and screenwriter Steven Knight take a look at those toiling in the jobs that no one else wants while they're preyed upon by a layer of society much like themselves in everything but humanity. The story takes the myth out of the urban legend about hotel room kidney- stealing, making it more horrific in that its victims are voluntary. DIRTY PRETTY THINGS will offer an invaluable service if it causes its audience to start looking into the faces of those it takes for granted, although it devolves into a simplistic race-against-time, damsel-in-distress tale.

"Good-hearted Okwe thrives on caffeine in order to stay awake for all his working hours and saves money by sharing a small flat with Senay (Audrey Tatou, AMELIE), a virginal Turkish girl who works as a daytime chambermaid at the same hotel. Okwe's world consists of meting out clap remedies to fellow cabbies, playing chess with his bemused mortician attendant buddy Guo Yi (Benedict Wong, SPY GAME) and casting a blind eye towards streetwalker Juliette (Sophie Okonedo, ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS) and her jovial cab driver customer Ivan (Zlatko Buric, BLEEDER) who tryst in his hotel. Okwe clearly cares for Senay, but his own secret and her chastity hold him in check. When Senay loses her job in the hotel, she takes another in a sweatshop run by an abusive pig. Her desperation will put her in the path of the evil operation Okwe stumbled upon without understanding and he will undergo a grueling journey through London's dark underbelly in order to save her and himself.

"The charismatic Ejiofor grounds the film with a portrait of non-judgemental human decency leavened with humor. It's a star-making performance. Audrey Tatou is surprisingly well cast as a Turkish girl in love with Okwe, but there is little complexity to the character of a fearful victim. Sergi Lopez is gleefully nasty as Russian black marketeer Sneaky. Wong is a stabilizing presence as Okwe's philosophical morgue buddy and Buric adds a zest for life amidst the downtrodden , but it is Sophie Okonedo who provides the sprightliest support in the cliched role of the down to earth hooker.

"The London of DIRTY PRETTY THINGS is one of cramped spaces and slick nighttime streets, daylight reserved for ethnic markets and a final scene of escape. Frears makes his point well and early on, though, leaving himself nowhere to go but melodrama. Thankfully he stops short of having Tatou tied to train tracks." 3 1/2 cats