Dinner Rush

The frantic pace of a crowded popular restaurant mirrors the drama in Dinner Rush, a nice amalgamation between Big Night and The Sopranos. The film chronicles one eventful night at Gigino's Trattoria, Louis Cropa's (Danny Aiello, Prince of Central Park, The Sicilian Code) Italian restaurant, located in the hip TriBeCa area of New York. Tonight, his restaurant attracts art critics, food critics, mobsters, and policemen. Throughout it all, Cropa sits at his table on the second floor, observing the happenings like a pit boss. In fact, Cropa is also a bookie who runs a small time operation. It's a wonderful ensemble movie directed by Bob Giraldi (Hiding Out, Club Med) that has many speaking parts but still takes the time to focus on and develop distinct, interesting characters. There is a sense of controlled chaos as Giraldi moves from story to story.

Cropa is getting old, and his son Udo (Edoardo Ballerini, Romeo Must Die, Looking for an Echo) wants to take over the restaurant. Udo is a master at cooking fashionable fusion dishes that his father dislikes. Unlike Louis, food critic Jennifer Freely (Sandra Bernhard, Zoolander, Playing Mona Lisa) adores Udo and his dishes. She is critical of everything else, especially the seating and is constantly complaining. Louis prefers the cooking of Duncan (Kirk Acevedo, Bait, Boiler Room), the sous chef. Duncan has a gambling problem, and owes Carmen (Mike McGlone, Hardball, The Bone Collector) a large sum of money. Carmen is willing to absolve the debt if Louis gives him Gigino's.

There are also a number of minor characters in Dinner Rush. But instead of acting as a distraction, these smaller stories complement the larger ones revolving around Louis. Sean (Jamie Harris, Made, Fast Food, Fast Women) is the know-it-all bartender and Ken (John Corbett, Serendipity, Private Lies) is his first time customer. Marti (Summer Phoenix, Committed, SLC Punk!) is a waitress and aspiring artist sparring with her customer and art critic Fitzgerald (Mark Margolis, Hardball, The Tailor of Panama). The script by Rick Shaughnessy and Brian S. Kalata deftly weaves all of the strands together, never lingering on one story for too long, and bringing everything together nicely in the end, where Aiello demonstrates why he is the manager of the restaurant

Complementing the story and the wonderful looking food is the acting. There are many types of roles here, requiring lots of effort from the actors. Bernhard and Margolis are caustic and bitter, critical of everything. Margolis and Phoenix are able to successfully match wits during the span of his dinner. McGlone is calm yet radiates a certain nastiness. Aiello's Louis is weary, and in no mood to deal with Duncan and Kirk, while Ballerini is brash and eager. He can be a caring father figure, yet can also be harsh and vindictive. Even Harris and Corbett, who have relatively minor roles, are able to hold their own. As the night progresses, the restaurant becomes more crowded and the tensions between all the actors fray further. Giraldi slowly elevates the drama until everything comes to a boiling point. Just as quickly, the restaurant closes and everything calms down. Oh, and make sure to have a full stomach before watching this movie.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 38 minutes, Rated R for language, some violence and sexuality.

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