Arguably the worst film of Stephen Frears’s career, Dirty Pretty Things is a ludicrous, insecure psychological thriller that purports to give a human face to Britain’s invisible underclass. Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is an ex-doctor who works two jobs in London: by day he’s a taxi driver, by night a hotel concierge. When he isn’t curing one boss’s case of the clap, he’s incurring the wrath of another by taking issue with the fact that there are human hearts clogging up a hotel room’s plumbing. Welcome to the seedy underworld of organ trafficking! Give moustache-twirling Sneaky (Sergi López) a kidney and you get an illegal passport. When she isn’t dodging aggressive immigration agents, Senay (sugarplum fairy Audrey Tautou, under the impression that her accent is a Turkish one) takes a bite out of her greasy boss’s penis after he’s forced her to go down on him one too many times. Having reduced the plight of his immigrants via a series of hysterical encounters (a set piece involving a hotel’s revolving-door check-in system is a notable exception), Frears is then merely content with settling old scores. Okwe’s best friend, an Asian mortician with a fondness for chess (metaphor alert!), provides egregious moral commentary throughout, as does the prostitute who evokes goddess images in Catholicism when she hands the freshly deflowered Senay a morning-after pill. Despite his character’s rail-thin characterization, Ejiofor is impeccable, even when forced to spew lines like “My god doesn’t speak to me anymore.” And Frears ensures that Dirty Pretty Things is, well, pretty to look at, but has a more difficult time deciding whether it’s drama or comedy he’s after. Any way you cut it, the film is an all-around mess.
- Miramax Films
- 97 min
- Stephen Frears
- Steven Knight
- Chiwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou, Sergi López, Sophie Okonedo, Benedict Wong, Guo Yi, Zlatko Buric, Kriss Dosanjh
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