“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid,” wrote Raymond Chandler about his detectives. Major Noredin of the Cairo police is himself mean, and also tarnished and afraid, but down those streets he goes anyway, trying to do at least one just thing: find the man who killed a pretty Tunisian singer in the Nile Hilton on Tahrir Square. (The location is of course significant: the film takes place in the days running up to the 2011 revolution — brought about by the very corruption that surrounds Noredin without quite engulfing him. Before a society collapses, there are all manner of tremors, and this particular murder shakes one of its pillars.) Perhaps it’s the shift to a foreign locale and language, perhaps it’s the clawing desperation of almost everyone involved, perhaps it’s wirter-director Tarik Selah’s willingness to splay plot threads with Big Sleep-level bravura, but the evocation of that old film noir feeling is hugely effective here: Dad folding his prayer rug and telling his freshly-bribed son “You can’t buy dignity,” the fantastic slow zoom on a love scene reflected in a two-way mirror, even the beguiling torch singer who just wants to live her dream. In Arabic with English subtitles.
Length: 1 hour, 46 minutes