Sunday, August 22, 2010

Movie with Abe: Soul Kitchen

Soul Kitchen
Directed by Fatih Akin
Released August 20, 2010

With a title like “Soul Kitchen,” it’s hard to know exactly what to expect. It turns out that it’s the German-made story of a restaurant owner who struggles to find the right flavor and financial plan for his establishment. He serves low-rent food and has a steady customer base that just can’t balance out the bills he has to pay for the large property located in a relatively abandoned area. His troublesome, partially-paroled brother, a new chef with a flair for throwing knives and kicking out customers, and an old classmate dead set on purchasing and razing the restaurant only add to his problems as he tries to keep his restaurant and his life afloat.

If nothing else, “Soul Kitchen” is a peculiar comedy that places strong emphasis on characters. The German-Greek restaurant owner, Zinos, played by Adam Bousdoukos (best described as a cross between Michael Imperioli and Eric Bana) is perceived as unreliable by his girlfriend, Nadine, and can never seem to get his act together long enough to make something last, like following Nadine to China when she moves them for a journalism job. Zinos’ brother Ilias shows up looking for an excuse to justify getting let out of prison every night but proclaims a desire to do no work. Some of Zinos’ workers use the restaurant as a practice room for their band. The most entertaining of the bunch is Shayn, Soul Kitchen’s new chef who takes Zinos’ frozen ingredients and repurposes them to look fancy and expensive. The cast is littered with other fun characters who help to complicate and enliven Zinos’ life. It’s an endearing ragtag bunch mildly reminiscent of the gang from “Micmacs.”

Despite its title, “Soul Kitchen” isn’t so much of a food movie at its start. It quickly becomes clear that Zinos doesn’t know much about good cooking, and he simply prepares easy dishes that he knows his customers love. When Shayn arrives and takes over his kitchen, the knife-wielder is horrified, dismayed, and embarrassed by Zinos’ performance in the kitchen. As the film progresses, however, Zinos gets the chance to grow and it becomes obvious that he takes more of a delight in his craft and feels more connected to the art of cooking. While it doesn’t have the upbeat mannerisms of a classic food movie like “Big Night,” this is still an extremely unique, enjoyable and bizarre treat.


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