Review: ‘City of Life’

The first feature substantially funded by Dubai feels as soulless as the city in which it unfolds.

The first feature substantially funded by the local government, lurid Dubai-set melodrama “City of Life,” from tyro helmer Ali F. Mostafa, feels as soulless as the city in which it unfolds. Shamelessly packed with product placement, the multilingual ensembler gracelessly intercuts the tales of a group of privileged young Emiratis up to no good, a pair of Eastern European flight attendants involved with a slick English adman, and a naive Indian taxi driver with Bollywood dreams — to increasingly ludicrous effect. Domestic auds may be curious at first, but word of mouth is unlikely to be positive.

Rich boy Faisal (Saoud Al Kaabi) and hothead pal Khalfan (Yassin Alsalman, aka the Narcicyst) drive dangerously, drink alcohol and get into fights. Sweet stewardess Natalia (Alexandra Maria Lara) neglects her work and backstabbing roommate (Natalie Dormer) when she’s swept off her feet by smooth playboy Guy (Jason Flemyng). Meanwhile, cabbie Basu (Sonu Sood) overextends by moonlighting as a dancer at an imitation Bollywood club; Sood is the most successful at bringing his cardboard character to life. The stylistic melange also suffers from cliched dialogue, cut-rate special effects and a distractingly ugly score.

City of Life

United Arab Emirates


A Gate Media presentation of an AFM, Filmworks production. (International sales: Filmworks, Dubai.) Produced by Ali F. Mostafa, Tim Smythe, Leigh Clarke. Directed by Ali F. Mostafa. Screenplay, Mostafa, Gerry Sherard.


Camera (color), Michael Brierley; editor, Raul Skopecz; music, Barry Kirsch, Matt Faddy; production designer, Christopher Bass; costume designer, Carolyn Marston. Reviewed at Dubai Film Festival (Gala), Dec. 11, 2009. Arabic, English, Hindi dialogue. Running time: 93 MIN.


Alexandra Maria Lara, Sonu Sood, Saoud Al Kaabi, Yassin Alsalman, Jason Flemyng, Natalie Dormer, Ahmed Ahmed, Habib Ghuloom, Javed Jaaferi.

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