Movie Review ~ Boiling Point (2021)

The Facts:

Synopsis: Enter the relentless pressure of a restaurant kitchen as a head chef wrangles his team on the busiest day of the year.

Stars: Stephen Graham, Vinette Robinson, Alice May Feetham, Hannah Walters, Malachi Kirby, Izuka Hoyle, Taz Skylar, Lauryn Ajufo, Jason Flemyng, Ray Panthaki, Daniel Larkai, Lourdes Faberes

Director: Philip Barantini

Rated: R

Running Length: 92 minutes

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review:  There are few things on the technical side of movies that get me as excited as one-shot filmmaking because of all the risks that go along with it.  One screw-up by a background actor, one flubbed line by the star going from one location to another, a missing prop, a malfunctioning door…any of these could ruin a take resulting in the entire machine needing to start up again.  Unless it’s a live event, movies can work some magic and seamlessly cut together one take to the next and though several high-profile films have claimed to have been presented in a single take (1917 springs to mind), further investigation shows that isn’t the case.

So an experience like Boiling Point should be a cause to celebrate because it actually is one of those rare instances of a company of actors and crackerjack film crew collaborating on getting through a 90 minute take without any interruption.  While it began life as a 22-minute short film starring many of the same actors, the ante is upped significantly by expanding upon the original short that sets the film in a tightly packed restaurant already fraught with the tension of a busy night during a critical turning point for many of its staff and leadership.  Director Philip Barantini and co-writer James Cummings have etched a rough sketch for the talented cast to operate within and then set them free for four single takes over two evenings in a trendy London restaurant.  Oddly, though there is an earnest aroma of drama that wafts over the hour and a half of real time events, the overall dish has a bland taste where spice was all but promised.

The dinner service at Jones and Sons (a real restaurant in London) hasn’t even started yet and already head chef Andy Jones (Stephen Graham, Venom: Let There Be Carnage) is having a bad night.  Arguing with his ex on the phone as he steps into his kitchen, he’s greeted by a health and safety inspector who informs him the restaurant rating is being reduced by two points due to recent violations.  Issues with front of house manager Beth (Alice Feetham) cause a disconnect between the wait staff and sous chef Carly (Vinette Robinson, Frankie), resulting in an epic blow-up that has a ripple effect through the employees that support one or the other.   Andy also has to make space in his busy night to placate Alastair Skye (Jason Flemyng, Military Wives), a celebrity chef/friend/investor making an unplanned visit to dine along with his guest, a high-profile food critic (Lourdes Faberes, No Time to Die).  This is all in addition to a variety of customers with their own quirks that irk.

All of the crisscrossing storylines that Cummings and Barantini (Villain) have, ahem, cooked up are interesting in the moment but lack the hook to keep you thinking about them after they are out of sight.  The pace is so rapid there’s barely a moment to breathe, let alone get to know the multitude of players that zoom out of our line of sight.  One of the drawbacks of keeping the camera going is that it often trails people doing absolutely nothing just to have something to film.  In a normal movie, the editor would cut from a shot of an actor exiting down a hallway to them entering another room.  In Boiling Point, we just flutter behind like a gnat, without much purpose.  In one shot, we’re following an actor as they go from one end of the restaurant all the way to the other end and then outside, only to turn around and retrace their steps and back out again because they forgot a jacket.  All of that is likely in service of setting up the actors for the next scene but you’d think the writers would have found some intention to these silent walks. 

More than anything, most of the characters are so unlikable that you almost recoil from the screen after a while. Early on in Boiling Point, the cast is just yelling profanities at one another and while that may be an accurate representation of what it’s like during intense moments in restaurant setting like this (hey, I’ve watched Hell’s Kitchen too!), it wastes precious time where characters could be developed instead.  Everyone seems to be in it for themselves and even seemingly kind server Andrea (Lauryn Ajufo) eventually shows how quickly she can develop a deflective skin for a nasty customer.  In the leading role, Graham often comes up weirdly whiny and definitely not the hero of the piece.  Working through his own problems while holding his business up is breaking him down and tonight may be the final straw…but can he make it through this final service before cleaning up his act?

No spoilers, but the ending to the film was a bit of stupefying lame-ness and a cheap way to go out.  Up until then Boiling Point was just overshooting its goal by trying to do too much so I was so surprised when it decided to nosedive as quickly as it did.  That anyone thought this was a worthy ending for the characters or even something meaningful is totally crazy.  I was leaning toward recommending this movie based on the acumen it showed in carrying off its big achievement stunt, but the finale put me squarely on the fence.  Ultimately, I still think it’s worth seeing for some elements but not for that ending.  Put that ending on ice…or fry it off.  Whatever cooking allegory you want to use.

Movie Review ~ Villain (2020)


The Facts
:

Synopsis: Released from prison, a man returns to his violent ways when a menacing drug lord threatens his indebted brother.

Stars: Craig Fairbrass, George Russo, Izuka Hoyle, Mark Monero, Tomi May, Eloise Lovell Anderson, Taz Skylar, Nicholas Aaron, Michael John Treanor, Marcus Onilude, Robert Glenister

Director: Philip Barantini

Rated: R

Running Length: 97 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review: Over here in America we think we’ve got the gangster movie nailed down and maybe we’ve had a good run but there’s something about the way our friends over in the UK do it that elevates it to another level.  Though Guy Ritchie is credited as revitalizing the crime thriller for a new generation with his slate of movies in the early 2000s which combined rough action and slick dialogue, it overly complicated what is ostensibly a simple genre.  All that flash may give the feature an interesting look but it’s the performances and plot that propel these hard-nosed titles forward into success.  While Ritchie made a play to regain some of that magic with The Gentlemen earlier this year, it still leaned a little too much on the side of style over substance…but it was on the right track.

Now we have Villain, a smaller title with no A-listers to amp up the star quality and it winds up running circles around The Gentlemen for the plain fact that it goes back to the original formula instead of designing from the next gen hybrid.  It’s a hard-nosed, bloody knuckle ride that feels like it was working from script that’s been around since the 70s.  That’s not a bad thing, either, because it keeps the world of our characters small and the attention focused, creating a cracking action package that also takes interesting dramatic turns.

Having served his time in prison, Eddie Franks (Craig Fairbrass, Cliffhanger) is headed home to take back the family pub from his ne’er-do-well brother Sean (George Russo, also a co-screenwriter) who has been keeping it afloat during his absence.  Though the watering hole continues to generate steady business from the locals, Sean has a side operation with a few ruddy drug runners that have set him up in a shady extortion plot.  With Sean’s life on the line and Eddie not wanting to go back to prison so soon for kicking the tar out of these men, the brothers offer to peaceably make good on the debt and let everyone be on their way but when the thugs push back it sets a chain of gruesome events into motion.  With his family on the line, Eddie has to come out of his good guy retirement to protect his brother, his business, and his estranged daughter (Izuka Hoyle, Mary Queen of Scots) that wants nothing to do with him.

Actor turned director Philip Barantini oversees his first feature film and it captures the feel of those 70s British gangster films while still retaining a modern sensibility.  It’s obvious Barantini has done his homework and while the movie doesn’t feel old-fashioned or overly reverential, you can see that it is definitely tipping its hat toward the films it was inspired by.  The same feeling is found in Russo and Greg Hall’s efficient script.  The characters are fairly well defined and we know as much as we need to about them so that their motivations make sense.  The introduction of Eddie’s daughter could have been a typical saccharine development but the way Fairbrass and Hoyle play it we know that a resolution won’t be wrapped up in a bow in the course of 97 minutes.

I wasn’t familiar with the work of Fairbrass before this but looking over his IMDb credits he’s amassed a lot of similar roles over the years.  He fits into that elder Jason Statham role and I wouldn’t be shocked to hear this was originally offered to Statham, which is meant as no disrespect to Fairbrass because I think he wound up being the better choice anyway.  He’s an intimidating presence but soft-spoken, you know he’s paying you respect by not slapping the hell out of you if you look at him sideways.  While the supporting cast is solid across the board, this movie belongs to Fairbrass and he’s a commanding (and affable) lead.

Though it starts to run out of steam and interesting places to go near the end, I wasn’t quite sure for the majority of the movie where Villain was headed.  For once, I could have imagined countless different solutions that would have been a satisfying finale and the one that was chosen likely makes the most sense dramatically.  As much as the movie is about settling up old scores and paying for actions, it shows that no one is above consequences, even purportedly minor ones.