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Stephen Frears
Audrey Tautou, Sergi Lůpez, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sophie Okonedo, Benedict Wong, Zlatko Buric, Kriss Dosanjh
Writing Credits:
Steven Knight

Some Things Are Too Dangerous To Keep Secret.

Turkish chambermaid Senay (Audrey Tautou) toils at a west London hotel that is full of illegal activity. Then late one night, a shocking discovery is made!

Box Office:
$10 million.
Opening Weekend
$100.512 thousand on 5 screens.
Domestic Gross
$8.111 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 3/23/2004

• Audio Commentary with Director Stephen Frears
• Behind the Scenes  Special
• Sneak Peeks


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Dirty Pretty Things (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 12, 2004)

In the category of ďdeceptive DVD coversĒ, we look toward Dirty Pretty Things. The film contains only one mildly bankable name: Audrey Tautou, the lead from the charming fable Amelie. The DVDís cover very prominently features an apparently topless Tautou and clearly touts her as the lead. It also makes the movie look like a sexy thriller, which doesnít fit the film at all.

Those enchanted with the fantastical tone of Amelie will also not likely care for the darkness of Dirty Pretty Things. At the start, we meet a London taxi driver named Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The Nigerian exile does what he must to get by and also operates as a night shift desk clerk at the Baltic Hotel. We hear hints that Okwe used to be a doctor but he canít practice in England and he operates beneath the legal radar as an illegal alien.

Okwe interacts with Turkish maid Senay (Tautou), who resides in England as she seeks asylum. Because of this, she isnít supposed to work or accept rent, but she does both; Okwe resides with her.

When genial prostitute Juliette (Sophie Okonedo) reports a plugged toilet in a room, Okwe investigates and makes a shocking discovery: a human heart. He reports this to his sleazy supervisor ďSenor SneakyĒ Juan (Sergi Lopez), but the boss clearly doesnít care. Sneaky challenges Okwe to contact the police, but due to his under-the-radar status, he canít do this.

Sneaky wants to ignore Okweís discovery, but our protagonist feels too curious not to investigate it. Ultimately he finds out that operations occur in the hotel to remove organs which then get traded for documents like passports and/or money. Okwe slowly becomes pulled into the temptations of this world.

We also see the gentle romance between Senay and Okwe. The pair donít engage in any physical developments, but they clearly feel strongly about each other. Along the way, we learn more about their personal situations and pasts. The constant threat from immigration adds to the tension and forces the pair into some potentially problematic situations.

With its look at undocumented working class folks, Things focuses on an unusual topic, and it does so fairly well. The movie occasionally goes into sensationalistic territory, but it does so in such a low-key manner that it doesnít feel exploitative. Things provides an intriguing and revealing look at the underclass and seems consistently engaging. The flick comes across as realistic but it doesnít wallow in the misery.

A lot of the filmís success comes from the understated lead performance from Ejiofor. He really carried the story, as his presence keeps us involved in some of the slower moments. Ejiofor displays a quiet dignity that seems appropriate for the role, and he plays the role in a natural and impressive manner.

Things does falter at times, especially during the third act. The movie gets into the organ trade subplot a little too heavily, and it engages in more than a little soap opera. The flick occasionally telegraphs its points and comes across as less than subtle at times.

However, most of Dirty Pretty Things portrays its subject in a nicely understated way. Some of its topics follow predictable paths, but it remains engaging and intriguing. The film moves at a deliberate pace that moves matters along well. I canít call it a taut tale and one that stands out as exceptional, but it seems decidedly above average as a whole.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

Dirty Pretty Things appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The flick mostly looked good, but it lost a few points due to some minor concerns.

For the most part, sharpness seemed satisfying. Some wider shots appeared slightly soft and ill-defined, but those didnít occur with much frequency. Instead, the majority of the flick came across as reasonably concise. I noticed no issues with jaggies or shimmering, but some moderate edge enhancement caused occasional distractions. Print flaws also popped up at times. I noticed a few bits of grit, though not to a terrible degree.

Things presented a very stylized palette. It favored fairly garish hues at times, apparently in an attempt to set us on edge and understand the charactersí situations; for example, weíd see sickly greens many times. The DVD replicated the colors appropriately; they mostly seemed unappealing, but that came from the visual design. Black levels were nicely firm and distinctive, and low-light shots looked clear and easily visible. The image of Things wasnít great, but it mainly seemed solid.

As one might expect from this sort of character drama, Dirty Pretty Things featured a pretty subdued Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The mix heavily focused on the forward channels. The surrounds offered some minor ambience and reinforcement but very little else. In the front, I heard good stereo imaging for music and a decent sense of atmosphere, but that was about it. The track didnít try to do to much.

Audio quality seemed positive. Speech consistently came across as clear and crisp, and I heard no problems with intelligibility or edginess. Music was smooth and dynamic, though it matched the subdued nature of the track as a whole; the score was well reproduced but because it didnít usually play an active role, it didnít tax the mix. Effects also were minor but accurate, as those elements seemed clean and concise. Low-end was solid, without exceptional presence but also without boominess or other concerns. The audio of Things didnít stand out, but it seemed fine for this sort of flick.

Dirty Pretty Things presents a few extras. We open with an audio commentary from director Stephen Frears, who offers a running, screen-specific chat. Unfortunately, this piece seems consistently dull. Frears tells us how he came onto the film and also discusses the cast and locations. And thatís about it! Frears speaks infrequently and says very little when he does talk. Frankly, I learned almost nothing about the movie, and the many dead spots made this a frustrating and dull commentary. Skip it.

We also get a short Behind the Scenes featurette. This lasts a mere six minutes and 14 seconds as it offers a quick look at the production. We see clips from the flick, shots from the set, and soundbites from participants. We hear from Frears, writer Steve Knight, actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sophie Okonedo, and Audrey Tautou, and executive producer Paul Smith. They give us brief notes about the filmís point of view, the casting of Ejiofor, Tautou, and Sergi Lopez, and a few general notes about the tale. The program is too basic to offer much of use, but itís a decent piece for what it is.

Inside the Sneak Peeks area we find a few ads. We get trailers for Amelie, American Gun, The Magdalene Sisters, and Veronica Guerin as well as a general clip to tour Miramax Home Entertainment.

Amelie fans wonít find any of that flickís light, flighty charm in Dirty Pretty Things, another effort from actor Audrey Tautou. Instead, the movie presents a dark look at the desperate measures taken by those in need, and it does so in a revealing and generally engrossing manner. The DVD presents fairly good picture and audio, but it offers weak extras. The filmís interesting enough for me to recommend a rental, though.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0476 Stars Number of Votes: 21
4 3:
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