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USA 2001
Directed by
Bob Giraldi
99 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Dinner Rush

Synopsis: Gigino's was once a family trattoria serving spaghetti and meatballs run by Luigi (Danny Aiello) and his wife. Now it's a chic eatery serving nouvelle cuisine concoctions devised by Luigi's son Udo (Edoardo Ballerini). Meanwhile Luigi's other son Duncan (Kirk Acevedo) is into the Mob for six and a half large and they want a piece of Luigi's restaurant in return. Luigi has realised that his days are gone and a new day is dawning but he's got business to finish before he goes anywhere.

There are enough "food" movies around to very nearly constitute a genre. Of the New York gangster genre 'nuff said. Dinner Rush is a clever and very satisfying mixture of the two. Largely shot within the cramped confines of Gigino's the well-turned script weaves together multiple storylines and a raft of disparate characters with intelligence, affection and quiet humour.

At the centre of the narrative is Danny Aiello, patron of the family restaurant, who sits at his corner table, a Don but not a Don, overseeing the passing of the baton to his ambitious son with all that implies for him, and for we the audience, of the end of an era. Aiello is doing what he does best - playing the slow-moving wop who knows and passionately loves his little piece of Brooklyn the way a wild animal knows the ground over which he hunts and breeds. In many ways this is an Italian Do The Right Thing. Not only is Aiello very much the same character as he was in that film, but Kirk Acevedo as his son, Duncan, is strongly reminiscent of the kind of character that Spike Lee usually gives to himself - a good-hearted loser chronically in pursuit of an easy buck. But all the cast are all terrific with a believably-real mix of characters from the sarcastically snobby gallery-owner to a Valium-popping waitress, a Jamie Oliver-like star-chef to a chatty barfly (John Corbett). The dialogue is snappy and Giraldi's direction is lively (it is almost frenetic in the kitchen).

This is very much a small story about life in the 'hood and the scale of this film is similarly small, albeit crammed with detail. At times the limitations of the single location and the routine of a restaurant makes it feel a little long but Giraldi and his scriptwriters manage to re-engage us just in time and to the filmic catalogue of New York stories this is an enjoyable addition.




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