Dinner Rush

2001, Movie, R, 98 mins


A mobbed-up, behind-the-scenes drama of a day or so at a trendy Manhattan eatery. Louis Cropa (Danny Aiello, in a role that suits him to a T), owner of the Tribeca trattoria Gigino, longs for the simple days when his late wife served good old-fashioned Italian fare. While his monstrously moody, star-chef son, Udo (Edoardo Ballerini), now gets raves for his nouvelle creations, Louis still insists on sausage and peppers cooked-up by sous-chef Duncan (Kirk Acevedo), a surrogate son and, to Louis's dismay, a compulsive gambler. For years Louis has done a little bookmaking on the side, and on this particular day, his longtime partner, Rico (Frank Bongiorno), gets whacked by Carmen (Mike McGlone) and Paolo (Alex Corrado), a pair of sadistic, upwardly mobile Queens mobsters who are also known as Black and Blue. The hit on Rico is evidently the result of Duncan's debts, but as the dinner rush approaches, Duncan nevertheless ignores Louis's advice and makes a fateful bet on a basketball game. The rest of the plot is mostly a series of loosely connected character vignettes — waitress Marti (Summer Phoenix) and her customer-from-hell (Mark Margolis); chatty Wall Streeter Ken (John Corbett), who's having dinner at the bar; hostess Nicole's (Vivian Wu) conflicted affairs with Udo and Duncan; food critic Jennifer Freeley (Sandra Bernhard), who arrives recognized but unannounced; Rico's single-parent daughter, Natalie (Polly Draper), and her flirtation with Louis — punctuated by the odd bit of blackout-style dialogue from one of the restaurant staff. Shakespearean in its aspiration if not in its execution, this warmly photographed film is a very personal project for commercial and music-video director Bob Giraldi (Michael Jackson's "Beat It," Pat Benatar's "Love Is a Battlefield"), who shot it at one of the ten restaurants he owns (he's not the commercial king for nothing), and should certainly please New York foodies and expense-account film critics who may have eaten at the real Gigino. Yet despite the Lear-like trappings and the talented young cast, which does its work with considerable grace, it has little momentum or punch, and the ending has police-detective plot-holes bigger than a side of beef. Giraldi and screenwriters Brian S. Kalata and Rick Shaughnessy may have verisimilitude on their side, but that doesn't necessarily translate into compelling drama. leave a comment --Frank Lovece

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