Man of la mangia
Danny Aiello leads an ensemble cast in "Dinner Rush," the intertwined tales of the declining mob and a rising Tribeca restaurant.
By JOSHUA TANZER
(Originally reviewed at the New Directors New Films festival in March 2001.)
It's a relaxed afternoon before the dinner rush at Gigino's of Tribeca, and the owners are sitting around with their buddies talking about days gone by. Senior partner Enrico (Frank Bongiorno) is asked, isn't it about time for you to get out of the business and retire?
"Get out?" laughs the irrepressible old-timer. "I'm still coming up with new ideas. We ought to start a web site. Think about it: Bookmakers-R-Us.com!"
|Directed by: Bob Giraldi.|
Written by: Brian S. Kalata, Rick Shaughnessy.
Cast: Danny Aiello, Edoardo Ballerini, Vivian Wu, Mike McGlone, Kirk Acevedo, Sandra Bernhard, John Corbett, Jamie Harris, Summer Phoenix, Polly Draper, Mark Margolis, Frank Bongiorno, Sophie Comet.
Related links: Official site
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Unfortunately, Enrico won't have a chance to try out any more new ideas, because that afternoon he is gunned down by some up-and-coming tough guys from Queens who call themselves Black and Blue.
Junior partner Luigi (Danny Aiello), after telling the cops none of what he knows, goes back to the restaurant for an eventful night and a well-made ensemble drama. Among the characters who will share this evening are: Udo (Edoardo Ballerini), Luigi's bright son who went to cooking school and is impatient to take over the restaurant as he becomes a star New York chef. Duncan (Kirk Acevedo) is dimmer than Udo but is also like a son to Luigi; he owes $6,500 to Black and Blue and despite his shortcomings is still tight with hostess Nicole (Vivian Wu). Dollar-a-question trivia genius and bartender Sean (Jamie Harris) astounds a growing crowd, including Wall Street barfly Ken (John Corbett of "Northern Exposure"). Meanwhile, wigged food critic Jennifer (Sandra Bernhardt) tries not to be recognized while moaning in ecstasy over the chef's specials.
Luigi who presides each night from his customary corner table and demands a nice Italian sausage and peppers rather than Udo's trendy truffle and champagne concoctions has something up his sleeve. The mobsters Black and Blue arrive as his guests and take a prominent table overlooking the whole restaurant while he considers their offer: Give them a cut of the restaurant profits or else. But the owner has at least one more surprise up his sleeve, as his other invited guest arrives a police detective, who's given an unobtrusive table against the wall and told to keep his eyes on the hoodlums. The cop can't believe Luigi would give up a couple of mobsters, but the restaurateur assures him that times are changing.
"Dinner Rush" has a lot of well-worn mob-movie elements the older generation that wants out, the good son who's been groomed for legit life, the bad son with a gambling problem, the offer you can't refuse. But a few things make this movie a little bit different. It tries to capture a moment when the Mafia is in decline and there's a conflict between those who want to cast it aside and those who want to grab a share before it's too late. It also takes a close look at the backstage workings of a busy, high-profile New York restaurant, which is interesting. And incidentally, it ends with an inspired twist that helps sort out the simmering conflict.
"Dinner Rush" is certainly a genre film that never steps too far outside the mob-movie conventions. But at least it tries to tell a story from a different angle not through tough guys and excessive violence but through a character-driven drama with several different perspectives. It's well conceived, often smart, and entertaining to watch.
|MARCH 22, 2001|
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Reader comments on Dinner Rush:
Hmm from Veronica, May 19, 2001
Re: Hmm from Steve Kyte, May 3, 2002
CRAP from Gabriel Carbone, Mar 26, 2006
Re: CRAP from Gabriel Carbone, Jan 19, 2008
Crap from Carlo Romano, Mar 2, 2008
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