Louis Cropa (Danny Aiello) owns Gigino in TriBeCa, NY, once a family style eatery where Louis also ran his bookmaking operation, with his partner, who is gunned down one night near the restaurant. Gigino has been turned into a nouvelle cuisine hot-spot by his son, Udo (Edoardo Ballerini). One eventful evening, Gigino's diners include the Mafia duo responsible for Louis’ partner’s death, who offer Louis a business 'partnership', acerbic art dealer Fitzgerald (Mark Margolis) and his entourage, famous food critic Jennifer Freeley (Sandra Bernhard) and lone barfly businessman Ken (John Corbett). While Udo conducts his kitchen team - including the inveterate gambler Duncan (Kirk Acevedo), who owes the Mafia duo thousands of dollars - Louis attempts to prevent the mob from muscling in on the place he has run for 25 years.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
'There's nothing here to eat here' laments restaurateur/bookmaker Louis Cropa (Danny Aiello) as he surveys the transformation of his traditional trattoria into one of New York's trendiest dining destinations. 'Why don't you stick with the bookmaking and let me run this business' replies his son and head chef Udo (Edoardo Ballerini). The conflict between the 'sausages and peppers' father and his 'lobster in shallot, champagne and vanilla bean sauce' son is just one of many juicy threads running through this Altman-esque banquet. Filmed in a restaurant owned by director Bob Giraldi, you can almost smell what's in the saucepans as Udo cracks the whip on his galley slaves while upstairs Louis attempts to stop the mob taking a stake in the place he's run for 25 years. Every character who floats through Gigino on this incident packed night makes an impact, right down to bit parts. Star diners include Mark Margolis as an acid-tongued art dealer who baits waitress Summer Phoenix 'why do the waiters always tell you their names?' and lantern-jawed Sandra Bernhard who leaves no food or scenery unchewed as a bitchy food critic. The cinematic language is crafted like a restaurant meal - hot, frantic and passionate in preparation; elegant, delicious and a little spicy in the consumption scenes. This is a winning return for Giraldi whose only other feature is the limp comedy Hiding Out in 1987. He fills the screen with magnificent food and keeps the action sizzling with the skill of a master chef who wines, dines and entertains us in great style.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It’s not until you walk out of the cinema, perhaps, that you realise Dinner Rush is almost a real time movie. The evening meal service at Gigino makes up much of the film, adding an immediacy and sense of being there which grows throughout the film. Another unusual aspect of Dinner Rush is its point of view: the audience is not better informed about the plot than anyone else in the film – we are not sharing inside knowledge, in other words, which gives the film an edginess. This, despite its seemingly meandering approach. There were moments I wondered where it was going, if indeed it was going anywhere. But even in those moments, the film’s veracity, its actual restaurant location and its carefully controlled visual chaos provided stimulus. There is a good deal of truth in the film – especially about the restaurant and some of the characters – and an entertaining script keeps the film somewhere between comedy, character drama and crime flick. All the cast are superb: Danny Aiello manages to infuse his Louis with a more complex version of some of his previous characters, Sandra Bernhard and Mark Margolis steal every scene they are in, and John Corbett provides the film’s biggest surprise as the suit from Wall Street sipping bourbon and coke at the bar for most of the evening. The hubub and panic of a functional restaurant is so well captured I was waiting for my main course when the lights came up.
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DINNER RUSH (M15+)
CAST: Danny Aiello, Edoardo Ballerini, Vivian Wu, Mike McGlone, Kirk Acevedo, Sandra Bernhard, John Corbett and Summer Phoenix
PRODUCER: Louis DiGiaimo, Patti Greaney
DIRECTOR: Bob Giraldi
SCRIPT: Rick Shaughnessy & Brian Kalata
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tim Ives
EDITOR: Allyson C. Johnson
MUSIC: Alexander Lasarenko
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Andrew Bernard
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Gil Scrine Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney/Brisbane: October 17, 2002; other states to follow