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Featured Blu-ray Review: Dirty Pretty Things

July 16th, 2012

Dirty Pretty Things - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Dirty Pretty Things stars, among others, Audrey Tautou and Chiwetel Ejiofor. She was still fresh in everyone's mind for Amélie, one of the biggest foreign language hits of all time. This was only his third movie, but his second was Amistad, which had earned a lot of praise. Dirty Pretty Things was still a smaller film being released by a min-major, so few expected it to be a big hit. However, while it did well in limited release, it missed modest expectations at the box office. Is it a good film that should have performed better?

The Movie

Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Okwe, an illegal immigrant living in London and working as a cab driver. He used to be a doctor in his native Nigeria, and helps his boss with an STI in exchange for a better route. He also works the midnight shift as the desk clerk at the Baltic Hotel. Senay Gelik also works at the Baltic Hotel, as a maid. The pair have been living together for a while, but not romantically. He's been renting her couch. In fact, she's a rather strict Muslim, so she doesn't even want to be in the apartment at the same time as a man. Working in a hotel during the midnight shift means he knows a lot of the underground, including being on friendly terms with Juliette, a prostitute, who tells him he's going to need to check out the room to clean up. When he gets there, there's blood on the bed and the toilet is overflowing. He's probably expecting to find a condom clogging up the toilet, but what he finds is...

Unavoidable spoiler territory...

What he finds is a human heart. When he confronts his boss, Juan, a.k.a., Sneaky (Sergi López i Ayats), Sneaky uses Okwe's status as an illegal immigrant to get him to drop the matter and not go to the police. Something illegal is happening there, and at the very least, Juan is helping cover it up. The next day, he talks to Guo Yi, a mortician and a friend. He gets the medicine his boss at the cab company needs, and asks about the heart. Guo Yi tells him to not ask questsions. It's dangerous for an illegal like him to ask questions.

Life like this continues for a while, with Okwe trying to figure out what's going on. However, his and Senay's lives are thrown into chaos when immigration officials comes to Senay's apartment. Because she is a refugee, she's not allowed to have a job or even take in a renter. When the immigration police come to the hotel, she's forced to quit and start working at a sweatshop, which is a lot more dangerous place to work. (The is especially true when when her boss learns the immigration police are looking into her status and blackmails her for sex.) It also becomes a lot more complicated when Okwe learns the scam Juan has been running. He's been trading passports to illegals in exchange for their kidneys. One of his 'costumers' is dying as the result of a botched operation and Okwe goes out of his way to save the man's life. When Juan learns Okwe was a doctor in his native country, he pressures him to join in the operation, but Okwe refuses. However, this changes when he learns what Senay has been forced to do.

That's a lot of white text. But there's a lot you shouldn't know going into the movie.

Not only did Dirty Pretty Things deserve to perform better at the box office, it deserved to win awards. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, but Audrey Tautou and Chiwetel Ejiofor deserved more praise for their performances. Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance was better than at least two of the actors who earned Oscar nods that year. The character of Senay was not as well written, but Audrey Tautou was excellent in her performance. Additionally, it is one of Stephen Fears' best films, and that's saying a lot. The film's success starts with the script, which weaves a very tight mystery, but the film is also a character piece where we get to really learn about the characters and care about them. Or at least we get to care about some of them. (There are some truly despicable people in this movie.) It is an excellent mix of the human drama and the suspenseful mystery. There are even moments of humor, which help elevate the film's more dramatic parts.

The Extras

Extras begin with an audio commentary track with Stephen Fears. It is a solo track and like many such tracks, it lacks energy, but it is still informative. There is also a six-minute making of featurette. As for the film's technical presentation, it's good, but that's as far as I would go. During the brightly lit scenes, there's plenty of detail and the colors are strong. However, most of the film is shot in poorly lit places at night, and during these scenes the level of detail is quite low and the colors are weak. There is crushing in shadows, as well. There is no significant print damage, nor are there compression issues. The audio is a little better with clear dialogue and enough ambient sound to not sound empty, but there's not a lot of dynamics here, for instanct. On the other hand, it is a good deal for just $13.50.

The Verdict

Dirty Pretty Things is making its Blu-ray debut this week. The film itself is amazing, while the Blu-ray has enough extras and its technical presentation is good, but not great. Definitely worth picking up for just $13.50.

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