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Access Motion Picture Group
Official Site
Director: Bob Giraldi
Producers: Bob Giraldi, Phil Suarez
Written by: Rick Shaughnessy, Brian S. Kalata
Cast: Danny Aiello, Edoardo Ballerini, Kirk Acevedo, Summer Phoenix, Vivian Wu, Mike McGlone

Rating: out of 5

“Revenge is a dish best eaten cold.”

A misquoted cliché, yes, but when Danny Aiello says this at the end of DINNER RUSH, he means it, and, having seen the film, the audience understands why. Louis Cropa (Aiello), a restaurateur and under-the-table gangster, is of the firm belief that things go smoothly as long as people understand their position in the organization of things. But when they step out of line, things happen to them, and here is the crux of Cropa’s belief: They brought it on themselves.

In the grand tradition of culinary movies, DINNER RUSH parallels the world of food with the world of worldliness, with the tics and quirks of a slightly abnormal environment that is just as apt to erupt into bloodshed as it is to offer a really good risotto. Food is literally a way of life for the characters in this movie—they put food on their tables by putting food on other people’s tables. At Gigino, a TriBeCa family eatery that has burst open into the mainstream and has become the trendiest place to eat in New York, a family of waiters, waitresses, hostesses, cooks, and mobsters all coexist under the politics of food service. Louis Cropa is the paterfamilias of this establishment, run by his son Udo (Ballerini) as a tight ship where customer satisfaction is a priority over personal dignity. A diverse parade of aristo-snobs comes through these doors during the course of one night, the dinner rush of the title, and the employees of Gigino find themselves frequently having to deal quietly with arrogance in the name of repeat business. DINNER RUSH sees the fact of industry: Success depends on the customer being happy and the provider being duly inconvenienced.

From the get-go, it’s obvious that Louis’s business interests skew more than just to Italian food. In the opening few minutes, a close friend and associate of his is gunned down in the street, a GODFATHER-esque execution, complete with slo-mo camera and snow, lots of snow. The executioners then, throughout the course of the film, seek out Duncan (Acevedo) who owes quite a bit of money on a bet or two that he neglected to honor when he lost. The film juxtaposes tight, hushed little conversations over secluded corner tables with Duncan’s mounting fear amid the organized chaos of the restaurant’s kitchen. And it is during these scenes in the kitchen that the film can prove to be fascinating.

But there lies the main problem of the film, too. At times, it seems just too fascinated with itself. A film can only show pasta being strained in slow motion so many times before it becomes an exercise in narcissism. And this narcissism expands to a male conceit in DINNER RUSH. The women in this film, though given some pretty decent lines by the script and some much-needed spunk by the actresses, are totally underdeveloped. The film keeps trying to show us that the men in this world are controlled by the women around them, but by not letting the women become characters on their own, it seems a case of simple play-acting, of a film trying to pass itself off as a study in gender roles, while in actuality, the only thing it knows is the slipperiness of men. They talk, they eat, they cook, they kill. It’s not so much a study in gender, after all, but a comment on the old adage that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. At one point in the film, Louis complains that Udo’s cooking, while artistically valuable and adequately tasty, is lacking a bit in soul. DINNER RUSH is like that: Just a little more direction, and it could be genuinely delicious.

—Cole Sowell

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