"Forget it, Noredin. It's Cairo."
Had a similar line not been made famous in another noir, that one might serve as an apt ending for "The Nile Hilton Incident," a film that owes debts to "Chinatown," "The Long Goodbye" and other crime mysteries that are marinated in cynicism.
Noredin (Fares Fares), a police detective, trolls the city, demanding payoffs from whoever is unlucky enough to cross his path. To call him corrupt is not to say that the rest of the force is clean. Everyone here is on the take, all the time, from cops to clerks to politicians.
Noredin gets the case of a murdered woman, a crime that higher-ups are eager to label a suicide. But Salwa ( Mari Malek ), a hotel maid, saw something, and Noredin develops a shred of conscience that leads him to investigate. Perhaps he's spurred by his father, who looks upon him and his ill-gotten gains with disappointment and says, "You can't buy dignity, son."
Anger seethes throughout the story, set days before the 2011 Egyptian Revolution . Tarik Saleh, the writer and director, constantly eyeballs the crowded city, its chaotic masses and its crumbling buildings. Cigarettes are smoked by the carton, exhaust chokes the air and everything is falling apart. It's horribly fascinating to watch.
The trouble with the movie — and it's significant — is that Mr. Saleh is so keen to survey Egypt's dysfunction that his pacing wanes. It's possible to admire each scene and still see this film, in its entirety, as in need of some serious sharpening.
Mr. Fares, playing against his sidekick role in the superb "Department Q" films, is captivating as he takes the lead. He goes down those mean streets as a man must go , but here he's got an added worry — those streets are set to explode.
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