Rating: 2.5 out of 5
I will say one thing about Bob Giraldi -- he knows how to capture the chaos and motion of a busy restaurant. For that reason, Dinner Rush, which is set at Giraldi's very own TriBeCa eatery, is wonderful. Pasta twirls poetically in pans, waiters and waitresses bolt toward one another like runaway trains, and the kitchen rattles with activity and the clanging of plates. He gets us caught in the atmosphere.
However, despite the effort Giraldi puts in, the movie comes up short. You keep waiting for that one scene or piece of dialogue that will get things going, and it never comes. We get an appetizer, but the main course never arrives.
Danny Aiello stars as restaurant owner and bookie Louis Cropa, who's surrounded by chaos on a memorable weekday night. His friend has been killed by two rival bookies (known as "Black and Blue"), who are now in his restaurant and would like a piece of it. Meanwhile, Cropa's son, Udo (Edoardo Ballerini), wants more control in the legal family business. After all, it's his cooking that's bringing in the crowds and the critical raves. Talented but troubled chef Duncan (Kirk Acevedo of HBO's Oz) owes thousands of dollars to the aforementioned colorful bookies, and he's sleeping around with the hot hostess (Vivian Wu). By the way, Udo is also seeing Duncan's paramour. And, uh oh, the food critic in New York has just stopped by!
While he's a music video director whose last feature was Hiding Out back in 1987, I don't think Giraldi is the problem. The trouble comes from Rick Shaughnessy and Brian S. Kalata's undernourished script. A love triangle? Greedy bookies? A lovable loser who has a gambling problem? Turn on your television and see if you can't find all three conflicts on some station in the next five minutes. These plot vignettes (and there are more) prevent the movie from having a reliable and riveting center and dampen the movie's brisk energy.
The predicaments could have been interesting, but the dialogue doesn't snap like another great restaurant movie, Frankie and Johnny (the last Garry Marshall movie I'll watch without a loaded gun put to my head). Dinner Rush shows its potential when the supporting staff gets its gossipy screen time -- the Indian maitre d', the nose ring-wearing waitress, the black waiter. But the writers blow a golden opportunity by offering mere glimpses at these people, except for an uninteresting segment where a waitress (Summer Phoenix) deals with a pretentious group of art lovers.
There are other problems. The movie's violent opening is wrong, as it sets us up for a completely different film that doesn't come around until the end. It's jarring. And there are utterly pointless characters, especially Sandra Bernhard's food critic. She isn't funny. She isn't charming. She adds nothing to the movie. Why is she here?
When all is done, Dinner Rush simply doesn't provide enough nourishment. I was starving when I left the theater, not just for what Giraldi could have done with a great script, but also for the dishes prepared by Udo and Duncan.
Beer: it's what's for dinner.
Facts and Figures
Run time: 99 mins
In Theaters: Friday 29th March 2002
Distributed by: Access Motion Picture Group
Production compaines: Access Motion Picture Group, Giraldi-Suarez-DiGiaimo Productions
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 40 Rotten: 4
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Cast & Crew
Director: Bob Giraldi
Screenwriter: Brian S. Kalata, Rick Shaughnessy
Starring: Danny Aiello as Louis Cropa, John Rothman as Gary Lieberman, Frank Bongiorno as Enrico Coventie, Lexie Sperduto as Lucy Clemente, Zainab Jah as Adrian, Alex Corrado as Paolo, Michael McGlone as Carmen, Walt McPherson as Detective Drury, Polly Draper as Natalie Clemente