Dinner Rush (15)

Review by Simon Bell

TAKE an ounce of well-crafted characters and blend with a pound of lush Italo-American scenography. Add a large tablespoon of witty quick-fire dialogue, a pinch of cinéma verité, and a smattering of lavish camera work. Marinade with originality and shake off any excess directorial presumption. Finally, toss gently with culinary panache and serve with a generous helping of audience appreciation.

Focusing for almost its entire 98 minutes within the confines of a downtown New York restaurant, Dinner Rush is as overtly seductive as your humble reviewer's metaphors are blatantly stretched.

Director and real-life restaurateur Bob Giraldi, positions staple Italian-American Danny Aiello at the centre of this particular feast. And who better to have at the helm of this desperately trendy TriBeCa eatery than the man whose very presence in a movie screams about waking up in a city that never sleeps to find you're king of the hill, top of the heap.

Bronx-born Aiello, of course, was a necessary ingredient in such Big Apple fayre as Once Upon A Time In America, Do The Right Thing and Moonstruck. Here, as Louis, he presides over a bookmaking operation behind his top-notch restaurant and its collective of gambling addict, sous-chef Duncan, artist/waitress Marti, his son, talented and power-tripping head chef Udo, and a various assortment of kitchen staff and waiters.

When his business partner and longtime friend is assassinated by gangsters, Louis must rebuff the overtures of the murderers who want to muscle in on his lucrative refectory. Otherwise, he is preoccupied with sedating his ambitious son, who also wants ownership, and setting up a very special evening's dining.

Among influential food critics and a party of pretentious artist friends sit regular diners, whose mastication and hum of conversation add to the ambient soundscape - at one point a customer looks aghast at the intricate proffering on the table before him and mutters: "I don't know whether to eat it or fuck it!"

Crammed with noise, the hustle, commotion and restlessness of this kinetic piece is wrapped in the warm browns and ambers of the restaurant's interiors.

Frenzied cameras move in close to give an idea of the turmoil of the cramped but endlessly productive kitchen and its masters, decelerating momentarily to display the works of art in progress in slow-mo.

By the film's neat and digestible ending, you know that revenge is, indeed, a dish best served gourmet.