Directed by: Stephen Frears (The Queen)
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou, Sergi Lopez, Sophie Okonedo
Chiwetel Ejiofor had been around for a few years — notably in a solid supporting role in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad (1997) — but it was Stephen Frears’ Dirty Pretty Things (2003) that gave him his first leading role and a shot at international stardom. Of course, the problem was that Dirty Pretty Things — which could have easily played to a broader audience — was relegated solely to the art-film circuit. And since neither Ejiofor, nor Audrey Tautou (best known for her role in 2001’s Amelie) were enough of a box office draw to push it beyond those boundaries, it ended up being a movie only known by the art-house cognescenti. That’s really too bad, because this subtle thriller — and charmingly bittersweet love story — from a screenplay by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises) is really a potential crowd pleaser. It deals with the underside of British life as experienced by illegal or barely legal immigrants — specifically a Nigerian doctor, Okwe (Ejiofor), and a Turkish Muslim, Senay (Tautou), both of whom are employed at a posh but shady hotel where some seriously illegal activities are going on. The prostitutes (especially the appealing Sophie Okonedo as a hotel regular) and the illegal immigrants are one thing, but when Okwe unclogs a toilet and finds the source of the blockage is a human heart, it becomes something else entirely. Just what that something is forms the crux of the movie’s thriller aspect. The relationship between Okwe and Senay takes care of the rest of it. It’s really a beautifully crafted film all the way around from one of our best — and least appreciated — filmmakers. And it ought to have made Ejiofor a major star.
Original review here
The Asheville Film Society will screen Dirty Pretty Things Tuesday, Oct. 1, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
In Brief: Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou star in Stephen Frears’ 2003 thriller Dirty Pretty Things. It’s a story about the seedy underside of London as experienced by illegal and barely legal immigrants who work at a posh but very unsavory hotel, one that serves as a center for criminal activities. This ranges from sketchy employment practices to prostitution to the organ transplant black market. This is one of those rare films that effectively straddles the line between commercial movie and art film, and it holds up beautifully after the passage of 10 years. A definite must-see of 21st century film.