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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'Dirty Pretty Things': An Electrifying British Thriller Wrought with Striking Social Commentary

Movie poster for the British film Dirty Pretty Things starring Audrey Tatou and Chiwetel Ejiofor

"Dirty Pretty Things" (2002) is an underappreciated and highly absorbing British suspense-thriller starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Owe, a West African immigrant in London who works as a daytime taxi driver while doubling as a front desk clerk at the upmarket Baltic Hotel. A doctor in his home country, Owe was forced to flee after being falsely accused of murder, and now intermittently performs illicit medical procedures on other impoverished immigrants.

One evening a prostitute operating out of the hotel named Juliette (Sophie Okonedo) informs Owe of a clogged toilet in one of the rooms—his subsequent probe revealing a discarded human heart as the source of the blockage. This ghastly revelation leads to his discovery that the hotel's contentious manager Juan (Sergi López) is operating a black market kidneys-for-passports racket on the premises—propelling Juan to offer Owe a lucrative opportunity as one of his illegal surgeons.

Ultimately enmeshing hotel maid Senay (Audrey Tautou), a Turkish Muslim on the run from the British Immigration Service, the storyline evolves into a serpentine tale of intrigue and revelation that culminates in one of the more inspired finales in recent memory. Written by Steven Knight ("Locke") and directed by Stephen Frears ("Dangerous Liaisons"), "Dirty Pretty Things" is a provocative vehicle for social commentary within the framework of a first-class dramatization—and one of the finest dark horse recommendations of the 21st Century.


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