Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Dirty Pretty Things: Grade C

Dirty Pretty Things (2002)
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou, Sophie Okonedo; Director Stephen Frears;

The three main characters are illegal immigrants working at a fancy London hotel. Ejiofor’s character, the desk man, discovers that black market human organs are being traded at the hotel, and worse, the surgeries are being performed there also. Destitute immigrants trade kidneys for forged British passports and money. Being illegal, Ejiofor and his colleagues cannot go to the police. Meanwhile the immigration service is on everyone’s back trying to catch them working in the country illegally. There is good tension when they raid.

This movie is of the “Ain’t it Awful!” genre. Instead of relying on the main story line of the black market organs, or developing the lives of the characters, the movie focuses instead on the plight of illegal immigrants, the humiliations they must suffer, the long hours they must work, their poverty, oppression, exploitation, yada, yada; all while they hold their heads up high, pronounce high moral principles and fierce allegiance to their ethnicity. It is all too much. I get that illegal immigrants have a tough time. However, they are illegal, so what can they expect? It’s an old story and not particularly well retold. A movie like The Visitor does the topic much better.

Meanwhile, the organ market story is not explored in detail. There is a twisty penultimate scene that is satisfying, although the final ending is a melodramatic sapsucker. And I thought the sound engineering was poor: muddy dialog throughout. Acting by the principals is excellent however. I am a huge fan of Ejiofor, and enjoyed watching him, even though this is not his best performance. And who can resist Audrey Tatou’s trembling upper lip? Okenedo is magical, and it is a mystery in itself why we do not see more of her. So good acting redeems an otherwise substandard movie.

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