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Dirty Pretty Things Blu-ray Review

Dirty Pretty Things (2002) U.S. movie poster Dirty Pretty Things

US Theatrical Release: July 18, 2003 / Running Time: 97 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Stephen Frears / Writer: Steven Knight

Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dr. Olusegun "Okwe" Olatokumbo Fadipe), Audrey Tautou (Senay Gelik), Sergi López ("Sneaky" Señor Juan), Sophie Okonedo (Juliette), Benedict Wong (Guo Yi), Zlatko Burvic (Ivan), Kenan Hudaverdi (Café Owner), Damon Younger (Punter), Paul Bhattacharjee (Mohammed), Darrell D'Silva (Immigration Officer), Sotigui Kouyaté (Shinti), Abi Gouhad (Shinti's Son), Barber Ali (Sweatshop Foreman)

Buy Dirty Pretty Things from Amazon.com: Blu-rayDVDMiramax Critics' Choice 4-Movie DVD

In 2003, Amélie (in France, Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain) was fresh in mind as just about the trendiest and most beloved foreign film of modern times. Thus, when Miramax released the British film Dirty Pretty Things in the US that summer, it did so with Amélie's star Audrey Tautou alone claiming above-the-title billing and the poster art in a seemingly undressed state.
These were marketing department decisions and evidently savvy ones, for Dirty grossed a plenty respectable $8.1 million in its limited US release, much more than it earned in its native country, Tautou's homeland, and the rest of the world combined.

In truth, the real star of Dirty Pretty Things is Chiwetel Ejiofor, a young British actor who has since quite possibly eclipsed Ms. Tautou in western recognizability. Whereas Tautou has mostly continued to work in her native France, making an unfortunate exception for The Da Vinci Code, Ejiofor has maintained a prominent presence in major American films, including Inside Man, Children of Men, American Gangster, 2012, and Salt. Ejiofor's absence from the poster and cover art is just as curious as Tautou's lack of clothing. She plays Senay Gelik, a plain Turkish immigrant working illegally in London as a hotel maid and sweatshop sempstress.

In his breakout role, Chiwetel Ejiofor plays an illegal Nigerian immigrant in London who drives a cab by day, works the Baltic Hotel lobby by night, and does a little free doctoring for the poor on the side. On edge about immigration officials, Senay (Audrey Tautou) is singled out upon arriving to her job as a sweatshop seamstress.

Far more front and center is Ejiofor's Okwe, a Nigerian exile working as an overnight bellman in the same hotel and also moonlighting as a backroom doctor for poor fellow illegals. Okwe is something of a love interest to Senay and for the time being is crashing on her couch, but prepared to disappear the moment that immigration officials drop in unannounced to check her quarters.

One night on the job, Okwe discovers the source of a 5th floor bathroom's clogged toilet is a healthy and intact human heart. It's a bizarre sight, one puzzling and troubling to make sense of. When Okwe brings it up, his boss, the shady Señor Juan (Pan's Labyrinth's Sergi López), shrugs it off as one of the secrets and mysteries of his establishment. But Okwe is determined to unravel this mystery, which signs point to being an illicit organ donation program.

Dirty Pretty Things is directed by Stephen Frears, a Brit who has bounced back and forth between his country and ours, helming such films as High Fidelity and the Oscar winners Dangerous Liaisons and The Queen. Frears won a few honors for this film in Britain and at the Venice Film Festival. He was far from the only person acknowledged for Dirty. Screenwriter Steven Knight, a "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" creator and veteran of British TV accruing only his second theatrical credit, earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Ejiofor received an assortment of awards and nominations for his promising lead turn. Frears, Knight, and Ejiofor all won British Independent Film awards, as did the movie, which also drew three additional acting nominations there.

Owner Señor Juan (Sergi López), nickname: Sneaky, is behind the Baltic Hotel's organ donation for passport black market. Hooker with a heart of gold Juliette (Sophie Okonedo) offers Senay (Audrey Tautou) wisdom, support, and a morning-after pill.

This is a strange yet compelling thriller, presented with flavor and accessibility, but never as riveting and sensible as it should be. Dark secrets and sordid deeds abound, which should keep us at a distance, but Okwe proves to be a noble, sympathetic protagonist with whom to tread these treacherous waters.
Morality, religion, dreams, and nightmares all hang in the balance as rape, retribution, prostitution, malpractice, and the helplessness of undocumented existence play out before our eyes.

It's not the sexy Audrey Tautou thriller advertised and not what the title would lead you to expect, but Dirty Pretty Things is an interesting drama nonetheless, one that lost that screenplay Oscar to Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, but won abundant critical acclaim and majority approval from audiences who had reason to feel duped.

Not too surprisingly, when Disney sold the Miramax name and library, Dirty Pretty Things was part of the lesser-known half that went to little old Echo Bridge Home Entertainment and not the more decorated, better-selling ones acquired by Lionsgate. Echo Bridge quietly brings the film to Blu-ray this week, which the still deceptive cover points out is its first time on the high definition format.

Dirty Pretty Things Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 2.0 DTS-HD MA (English, German)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: July 17, 2012
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Keepcase
Still available as Echo Bridge Home Entertainment DVD ($6.99 SRP; June 21, 2011) and Miramax Critics' Choice Collection ($19.99 SRP; October 25, 2011) with The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Welcome to Sarajevo, and Rabbit-Proof Fence
Previously released by Buena Vista on DVD and VHS (March 23, 2004)


Echo Bridge treats Dirty Pretty Things to a solid 1.85:1 Blu-ray presentation. Sharpness is merely adequate and the mildly stylized colors seem a tad soft. However, the print shows a good amount of detail while remaining largely free of imperfections. The default 5.1 DTS-HD master audio also satisfies, providing strong and even elements including crisp dialogue and decent atmosphere. It might not be a disc you use to show off the heights of high definition, but it also is definitely not one that will have you shaking your head as some of the studio's low-priced DVDs do. Although, unfortunately, no subtitles are offered.

Director Stephen Frears discusses "Dirty Pretty Things" in this short making-of featurette and at greater length in a dull, sporadic audio commentary. Eight rectangles feature black and white film clips or stills on the Blu-ray's main menu.


The Blu-ray hangs onto the two bonus features that accompanied Dirty Pretty Things on DVD.

First and longest is a feature audio commentary by director Stephen Frears. He doesn't have nearly enough to say to fill the 97 minutes of air.
When he talks, he lends some insight into his filmmaking process. Still, one must endure many lulls to get some details, and thus this is almost certainly not worth your time.

On the video side, there is an untitled behind-the-scenes featurette (6:14), presented, of course, in standard definition. Short and surface-scraping but far better than the commentary, it collects interview remarks from cast and crew members in addition to sharing a bit of B-roll production footage.

The scored menu plays black and white clips in rectangles among the cover art and other stills. The disc doesn't support bookmarks, but it does thankfully resume incomplete playback.

Juliette (Sophie Okonedo), Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and Senay (Audrey Tautou) team up and get paid in the end of "Dirty Pretty Things."


Dirty Pretty Things is interesting enough to recommend seeing, but not satisfying enough to encourage buying. Echo Bridge's Blu-ray is what you expect: a low-priced disc with a satisfactory feature presentation and the two extras it had on DVD. That is really all fans of this acclaimed little thriller could ask for and should qualify as a sufficient, affordable upgrade for those converting their DVD collections to Blu-ray.

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Stephen Frears: The QueenChéri | Written by Steven Knight: Eastern Promises
Chiwetel Ejiofor: Kinky BootsSalt | Sophie Okonedo: Martian Child
Immigrants: ¡Alambrista!UnknownThe Wendell Baker StoryGoal! The Dream Begins
New to Blu-ray: Shallow GraveThe 39 StepsCasa De Mi PadreRansomThe Color of MoneyNew York StoriesPhenomenon
2002 Movies on Blu-ray: The RingSpider-ManMen in Black IITreasure Planet

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Reviewed July 15, 2012.

Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2002 Miramax Films, BBC Films, Celador Films, and 2012 Echo Bridge Home Entertainment and Miramax.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.