Reviewed by Dennis Morton
In the opening scene of Stephen Frears new movie, "Dirty
Pretty Things", a cabbie is working the crowd at a London
terminal. After a few errant pitches he scores with a pair of
professionally dressed men who seem to have missed a connection.
The cabbie, whose name is Okwe, says to the men: I am here to
rescue those who have been let down by the system.
As the film unfolds, well discover that Okwes banter
is both prophetic and ironic.
Heres a content warning for those who occupy the right
wing of the political spectrum. Check your ulcers at the box
office. This film contains the looming specter of miscegenation
and dares to suggest that illegal immigrants have hearts and
souls as well as brains, "Dirty Pretty Things" is
part love story, part thriller and 100% fascinating. With elements
of "The Fugitive" and a dash of urban legend, Stephen
Frears and his magnificent international cast have created a
film that is simultaneously fast paced and contemplative.
Much of the movie takes place in the modest Baltic Hotel, where
the concept of room service is pushed to the limit. The Baltic
Hotel may be a bit short on traditional amenities, but shy of
a good late night meal, if your wallet is flush and your ethics
on vacation, you can find just about anything your heart desires.
And speaking of heart, and speaking of flush, occupants would
be well advised to avoid the plumbing, especially in room 510.
Deeds of a nature I dare not discuss transpire with regularity
therein. Said occurrences are presided over by a night manager
aptly named Sneaky, a fellow who rules his mini-nation of illegal
immigrants by threat of disclosure.
One of the themes in this film reminds me of the closing lines
of a poem written by Philip Nikolayev, himself an immigrant.
His poem "Typing Yoga" ends like this:
Amid overpopulations, where labor is so poignantly cheap, you
survive only by
perfecting your skills.
"Pretty Dirty Things" is populated by characters who
have to work overtime to make ends meet. Haunted by fear of
the immigration authorities and driven by the sheer will to
survive, their behaviors are pushed to extremes.
But Frears film is not grim. Screenwriter Stephen Knight
leavens the script with dark humor, often delivered by a morgue
attendant drolly played by Benedict Wong. And the afore mentioned
Sneaky, played by Sergi Lopez, the eponymous Harry in "With
A Friend Like Harry" is comically, diabolically brilliant.
The entire cast is top rate. And Frears enjoys the services
of a great cinematographer, Chris Menges. Menges did the camera
work on one of my favorite films of the last three years, Sean
Penns, "The Pledge".
I would mispronounce the leads name, so I leave that for
you to struggle with. I will say that his performance outshines
many an Oscar nominee. He can wordlessly convey a depth of emotion
rarely seen in Hollywood.
To sum it up, " Dirty Pretty Things" is the best film
now playing in the area, and one of the best films so far this
year. Thou shalt not miss it.
For KUSPs Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.