Dirty Pretty Things

Dirty Pretty Things ★★½

"Dirty Pretty Things" is an absolute chore to watch, from beginning to end. Initially, this isn't so much because the film is bad, but rather, because of its willingness to deal with uncomfortable subject matter. It's meant to be provocative and gritty, to show more privileged audience the reality in which so many immigrants live. That is certainly an admirable goal.

I will say, there are things that I liked about Dirty Pretty Things. The performances are excellent across the board, at least for what they are. Unfortunately, there's only so much that performances can do to rectify the problems with the script. Which, to be clear, is actually decent for the first, oh, third of the film. All of the set up works really well, presenting a world that is simultaneously uncomfortable and remarkably human.

Where it all begins to fall apart is the film's sense of morality. Sure, some of the protagonists take actions that are technically illegal, but they're not illegal in the same way as, oh, I don't know, murdering your own wife. The thing is, neither of the two major protagonists ever do anything wrong. They make the morally correct decisions throughout the film, until the end, when they do something that seemingly comes out of nowhere.

It doesn't help that the antagonist isn't much better. He's the type of character one would expect in a Bond film, overseeing the construction of a weapon with which to take over the world. The scale is a lot smaller, but the character is still cartoonishly evil. Leaning heavily into imagery and symbolism associating him the devil certainly doesn't help.

To put it more concisely, "Dirty Pretty Things" is nowhere near as smart as it purports to be. The onset of the film seems to promise that it will delve into moral gray areas, but quickly establishes that every character is a trope, and in this world, morality is black and white. It's frustrating, because there is potential here.

And while the lack of depth in the characters may be the film's most egregious flaw, it is far from its only one. There are multiple moments throughout the film that are meant to build tension, and instead, feel kind of goofy and overdone. The camera angles and movements play a part in this, but even worse is the music. To be clear, I think the music is actually fine, but the way its employed made me chuckle.

A movie such as this shouldn't be making me laugh. I mean, had it leaned into being kind of silly and not taken itself so seriously, maybe these scenes would have worked. And it's odd that some of these scenes fall flat on their face while other scenes in the film build tension with ease.

If you're not bothered by the film's lack of any tangible depth, then I guess you may enjoy "Dirty Pretty Things." It still tells a decent, if unoriginal, story. The same can be said of the character arcs. But there's nothing amazing about the film, and unfortunately, it misses the mark far too often.