A review of “Dirty Pretty Things” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for language, gore, and violence

Run Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes



The sticky issues of illegal immigration are something that most of us only read about in newspapers.  Stephen Frears’ (“High Fidelity”) dirty little thriller goes deep to the heart of the melting pot of London fringe dwellers and emerges as a tale of depth and humanity.

Trying to eke out a living in a major metropolis with the authorities perpetually breathing down your back isn’t a pretty picture.  Nigerian Okwe (a marvelously understated Chiwetel Ejiofor) is an ex-surgeon who drives a taxi by day and porters in a hotel by night. Home is a dingy couch in the dingier digs of hotel chambermaid Senay (“Amelie” star Audrey Tatou), a shy girl of Turkish descent whose virginal attitude keeps her on the brink of poverty.

A bizarre discovery at the hotel leads the sensitive Okwe on a disturbing path --- to the pitiful cruelty of the bartering of human organs.  Revelation piles on revelation in the form of black-market conspiracy. Shadowy friends who are falling between life’s cracks are helplessly drawn into the malevolent netherworld of blackmail and spite.

Frears has touched on a contemporary nerve or two.  The desperation inherent in the sale of illegal organ transplants and the inhumane treatment of illegal immigrants are worthy of high-profile publicity in the form of a well-crafted narrative.  “Dirty” manages to deliver its messages without sermonizing and without demoralizing its deeply drawn characters.  London is at its grimiest – home to an underbelly of people of integrity who maintain their dignity in the face of relentless misery and adversity.