The phrase “bread and circuses” is generally used derisively – the wikipedia page describes it as a “metonymic for a superficial means of appeasement” - but it does pretty accurately describe how I spend my time, assuming you substitute “burrito” for “bread” and “movies” for “circuses”. I do spend some time doing things that are noble, but for the most part I live a life that cycles between work, sleep, and distractions.
My problem with a movie like Dirty Pretty Things is that it isn’t a circus movie. It tells the story of two immigrants, one on the path to legal citizenship and the other wholly illegal, as they get pushed around by the cops, groped by sweatshop bosses and eventually find themselves pressured to donate a kidney by a black-market organ dealer. All of it is heavy stuff and the execution is so solid that the movie as a whole is fairly depressing and stressful. It does exactly what the movie makers set out to do, but it isn’t doing something that I particularly enjoy.
I should emphasize the word “solid”, however, because while I think the acting, writing and directing is all good, they are also a little short of great. The black-market organ dealer is such a sneering creep that he might as well be twirling the tips of his [nonexistant] mustache the whole time, the compressed time line strings so many indignities on top of each other that all of it begins to seem a bit contrived because they are crammed so tightly together, and the Hollywood ending seems a bit cheap after the movie has spent so much time wallowing in grit. But those complaints are relatively minor, given how consistently oppressive the movie feels.
If a win in this game is earned by whether or not I enjoyed the film than this is not a win. If a win is earned by whether or not I would recommend this movie than it’s probably a push – I would recommend it to people that like serious dramas, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it across the board. But depressing movies about how stressful life is at the bottom of the food-chain are why one of the ratings is:
Winner: No One Wins With Something Like This