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Dirty Pretty Things

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Dirty Pretty Things

Starring: Audrey Tautou, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Director: Stephen Frears
Rated: R
RunTime: 107 Minutes
Release Date: July 2003
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Sergi Lopez, Benedict Wong, Sophie Okonedo

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

If I say a movie is a "thriller," what do you think? Fast-paced? Adrenaline-pumping? Well, DIRTY PRETTY THINGS, by director Stephen Frears (HIGH FIDELITY), is certainly a thriller, but it's none of those things. Slow-paced and methodical, it is an absorbing and intriguing drama about some shady goings-on at a London hotel, staffed almost exclusively by illegal aliens -- or "undocumented workers," if you prefer the euphemism of the day.

In two wonderfully likable and sympathetic performances, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou (AMLIE) play Okwe and Senay, two workers at the hotel. Okwe is a taxicab driver by day and a hotel clerk by night, thanks to the help of a coca-like leaf that he chews in order to stay awake. He is an illegal alien from Nigeria, and she is one from Turkey. They both come to each other's aid. She is currently involved in a cat-and-mouse struggle with some Gestapo-like immigration officials.

Although Okwe is on the lam from immigration as well, his bigger problems are with Juan (Sergi Ląpez from AN AFFAIR OF LOVE), his slimy boss at the hotel. Juan has found a lucrative way to prey on vulnerable illegal immigrants and wants to force Okwe to help his criminal activities. Even before Okwe figures out what Juan is doing, Juan describes the role of the "unseen" hotel staff. "They come in the night to do dirty things," Juan says of the hotel's guests, "and it's our job in the morning to make it pretty again." I won't tell you what the mystery is other than to say it doesn't involve sex, as you probably assume. Among several satisfying subplots is one involving Okwe's past.

The movie is well worth recommending for its thriller part alone, but, as they say on DVD covers, there's bonus material. In addition to the mystery, the story is filled with intriguing insights into the world of maids and janitors and into the difficulties faced by those in a country illegally. DIRTY PRETTY THINGS may not have you jumping much, but it will have you thinking. It's an easy film to recommend. Think of it as an anti-Bruckheimer thriller.

DIRTY PRETTY THINGS runs 1:47. It is rated R for "sexual content, disturbing images and language" and would be acceptable for most teenagers.

Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes

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