The director of High Fidelity takes a dark turn with Dirty Pretty Things, a film that examines the seedy black market of organ trading and the few innocent people caught up in the middle of things.
Chiwetel Ejiofor gets his big break as he is the film's lead character, Okwe, a Nigerian doctor that for some reason or another is working double shift in London as a driver and a hotel clerk. Basically only known for his small role as the translator in Amistad, he gets to flex his muscles here, and does a damn good job of it. He is extraordinary, delivering a deep and puzzling performance that results in a rich and likeable character that seems to never get things straightened out no matter how kind he is to other people.
Co-starring is Audrey Tautou, who, to American audiences, is best known for the title role in Amelie. Unlike in that film, where she plays a goofy and spirited French girl (she is French, after all), she takes a darker path in Dirty Pretty Things as Senay, a Turkish immigrant that will stop at nothing to avoid immigration services and somehow make it to New York. Though her performance is rather subdued here, the chemistry between Ejiofer and her is excellent, though they really don't share that much screen time. In the end, the film is really a very dark romance, though at first glance one might not notice.
The story, more specifically, deals with Okwe as he attempts to sort out of his life after it starts to crumble around him (though, evidently, this has happened before). Though he is extremely smart - and apparently a doctor - he is working dead end jobs. Things get troublesome when he starts to suspect that his hotel is dealing in more than just customer service, and also when immigration services begin to suspect his friend (and perhaps love interest?) Senay has been working illegally. As he races to save her and himself, he begins to realize that he may be able to accomplish everything with a single stroke, if he plays his cards right.
Dirty Pretty Things is effective at many levels, as a drama, as a thriller, as a mystery and, in some weird way, as an offbeat romance (don't worry - there actually isn't any "romancing" involved). Deep and fulfilling characters, enforced by strong acting, make the movie very believable and engaging, and the story sucks the audience right into the story without even breaking a sweat. The mystery, more disturbing than surprising, is intriguing to say the least, and everything ties together so well at the end that it is hard not to be impressed.
The movie does end rather abruptly without what seems like an adequate finish, but all things can't be perfect.
Dirty Pretty Things is a great title for this film, as it is a wonderful film about good people set in a dark atmosphere that has seedy intentions.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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