[box cover]

Dinner Rush

Plunk the characters from Gosford Park down in the middle of New York City's TriBeCa neighborhood, give the downstairs staff a restaurant to run and the lords and ladies Brooklyn accents instead of crisp English ones, and you'd probably get something like Dinner Rush, a hustling, bustling movie that's as busy and complex as Gigino's, the restaurant at its center. With its large cast, multi-layered stories, and cut-to-the-chase storytelling, director Bob Giraldi's tight, well-paced movie is an example of what ensemble filmmaking can be when it's done correctly. At the center of the barely controlled chaos is Louis Cropa (Danny Aiello), an aging bookie/restaurant owner who's getting ready to give up the shady former side of his business in favor of the latter, a booming hot spot that's crowded every night. But when Louis's best friend and partner, Enrico (Frank Bongiorno), is killed by a rival organization thanks to the gambling debts of Gigino sous-chef Duncan (Kirk Acevedo), things get complicated. Mix in a serving of father-son conflict — Louis's son, Udo (Edoardo Ballerini), the restaurant's innovative, frustrated head chef, is champing at the bit to run the restaurant on his own — a dash of suspense (will ambitious thug Mike McGlone wear Louis down? Will testy food critic Sandra Bernhard praise or pan Udo's cuisine?), and even a pinch of mystery and romance, and you've got yourself quite a meal. It all comes to a head during one night at the restaurant in a dizzying succession of plot twists and turns. Giraldi does a fine job of juggling all the different storylines without pandering to the audience and over-explaining the characters' motivations and back stories. As in Gosford Park, that means the action and dialogue initially can be a bit difficult to "get" completely, but that's real life, and it makes Dinner Rush all the more absorbing. The cast is uniformly strong, particularly Aiello, who, as Louis — a traditional guy who'd choose a plate of sausages and peppers over Udo's nouveau cuisine creations — deftly balances a soft heart with an iron fist. Ballerini is convincing as the diva-ish Udo, and Acevedo's Duncan is the kind of charming rogue who, one misstep away from disaster, always gets saved in the nick of time. Also turning in a star performance is the food itself — unless you have fabulous dinner plans lined up, Dinner Rush isn't a movie to watch on an empty stomach. New Line's DVD doesn't offer much in the way of side dishes (the only extras are the theatrical trailer and a trio of previews for other New Line titles), but the disc does treat the main meal with respect: Both the DD 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio tracks are crisp and clear (English and Spanish subtitles are available), and the anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is strong and bright (a full-screen version is also included). Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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