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"Dirty, Pretty Things"
  Reviewed by: Wayne Klein
Genre: Thriller
Video: 1.85:1, Widescreen Anamorphic
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Languages English, French
Subtitles English, Spanish
Length 130 minutes
Rating R
Release Date 2/17/04
Studio Miramax Home Video
Commentary: Director Stephen Frears
Documentaries: Behind-the-Scenes
Featurettes: None
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: None
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: None
Music Video: None
Other: None
Cast and Crew: Audrey Tatou, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sergi Lopez, Sophie Okonedo, Benedict Wong
Written By: Steven Knight
Produced By: Tracey Seaward and Robert Jones
Directed By: Stephen Frears
Music: Nathan Larson
The Review:

Tackling another provocative subject, director Stephen Frears ("Prick Up Your Ears", "Dangerous Liaisons", "The Grifters") delves into the underworld of London populated by illegal immigrants and people with dirty secrets hiding in every closet. Okwe is a Nigerian immigrant who has entered England illegally. A former medical student, he now drives a cab by day and works as at the bell desk of a hotel by night. One of the hookers that frequents the hotel suggests to Okwe that room 510 needs to be cleaned up. He goes up to the room and discovers the hotel toilet overflowing. When he clears the blockage he discovers a healthy, human heart. The hotel manager doesn't want the police to become involved and Okwe can't reveal what he has discovered himself without fear of being deported. ***

The mystery obsesses him. He can't understand how something like this could happen without a body. He begins to investigate it himself. Senay his Turkish co-worker at the hotel is also being hounded by immigration disrupting their love affair. The mystery gradually draws both of them further in until they feel compelled to do something about what they discover. ***

A fine gripping thriller, "Dirty Pretty Things" takes turns the conventional mystery thriller on its head. Both Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou give commendable, believable performances. Frears unusual thriller won the London Critics Award and the Venice Film Festival. This brisk thriller stretches the limits of the genre and, although it isn't quite as powerful as "The Grifters", it still manages to keep your interest with a fascinating story and strong performances. It's a pity the film has been saddled with such a disjointed, difficult title as people looking for a thriller will think it's a softcore porn movie. ---

Image and Sound: The color palette in some scenes is a bit off, but nothing very dramatic. A few key scenes take place at night and in the shadows, and these scenes might have been a bit better. Overall though, this is pretty solid. No are no really detrimental flaws, and the shadow loss and color problems are not serious defects. *** The sound is quite good throughout the film, though the dialogue suffers in a few scenes, particularly if anything happens to be exploding at the time. Surrounds are fairly well used, and there is a lot of range to the overall effort,but the sound is delivered quite well on the DVD. -
The Extras: The "Behind-The-Scenes" special isn't anything unusual although it does provide Frears with the opportunity to articulate what his specific aims were with the film. There aren't any outtakes nor are there any deleted scenes although with a running time of 96 minutes there were probably a number of fine moments that were cut due to pacing. While they might have hampered the film, the DVD would be an appropriate place to give any of these character moments an airing. ---
Commentary: Frears comes across as one of the more articulate and intelligent directors in his commentary track. We learn a number of tid bits about the film including what attracted him to the actors he ended up with for both the leads and various character roles. There's also a glimpse into Frears unique ability to bring out the best in his actors evident in many of the comments heard throughout the commentary track. Although Frears comments provide insight into the film, Tatou and Ejiofor might have provided an interesting perspective as well. While it's always nice to hear the director's take on the film, usually we've seen that in the finished product. The actors perform at the mercy of the director and editor and sometimes comments on their performances provide additional insight into the film. ---
Final Words: A fine, topical thriller, "Dirty Pretty Things" unfortunately has the type of title that would be a marketing person's nightmare. Underneath this unwieldy title hides a unique thriller that continues to broaden Frears' mastery as a film director. The performance of newcomer Chiwetel Ejiofor and veteran actress Tatou bring these wonderfully complex characters to life. The film also provides a unique social commentary within the structure of the thriller. Frears, like Hitchcock, has made the thriller films he has directed unique and very much his own.


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