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DIRTY PRETTY THINGS

Here’s a film from Stephen Frears that shows its heart early on. Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor, a powerful, Sidney Poitier–like presence), an illegal Nigerian immigrant in London, finds one such organ jamming a lavatory in a room in the hotel where he works as a clerk. It seems Sneaky (Sergi López), Okwe’s aptly named supervisor, has been supplementing his black-market income by harvesting body parts for transplant purposes from desperate illegals willing to trade a spare kidney for forged paperwork. Unfortunately, the doctor Sneaky relies on for the operations has been slipping lately, hence the heart. So when Sneaky learns that Okwe is a physician, he threatens the man with exposure to pressure him into becoming his new sawbones. Complicating matters is Okwe’s chaste affection for virginal Turkish immigrant Senay (Audrey Tautou speaking English with an attempted Turkish accent is harder to watch than the surgical sequences). Frears’s heart has been with the plight of émigrés and outsiders at least since his 1985 breakthrough, My Beautiful Laundrette, but he shortchanges them in this would-be thriller by making their lives and demi-monde secondary to the conventions of the genre. Perhaps the film should be retitled Sammy and Rosie Get Filleted. (107 minutes)


Issue Date: August 1 - August 7, 2003
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