Pressure cooker drama Boiling Point a gripping 'technical tour de force'
BOILING POINT (15, 95 mins) Drama/Thriller. Stephen Graham, Vinette Robinson, Ray Panthaki, Alice Feetham, Jason Flemyng, Lourdes Faberes, Izuka Hoyle, Lauryn Ajufo, Thomas Coombes. Director: Philip Barantini.
TOO many cooks spoil a pungent broth in writer-director Philip Barantini's pressure cooker drama, which is shot in one unbroken take to capture simmering tensions in an east London restaurant during an eventful pre-Christmas service.
Co-written by Barantini and James A Cummings, Boiling Point loads a sprightly 95-minute running time with a bewildering array of ingredients, including drug addiction, racism, marital strife, professional jealousy and a heavily signposted medical emergency.
There are simply too many characters jostling for attention as Barantini's camera prowls a real-life eaterie that serves as a fabulously festive backdrop to myriad emotional meltdowns and home truths.
A tightly coiled central performance from Stephen Graham as a head chef teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown is extremely tasty and he blends magnificently with Vinette Robinson as a no-nonsense second-in-command, who is constantly soothing bruised egos and fighting proverbial fires.
Both actors bark orders, trade barbs and meticulously assemble dishes as if a busy pass is their second home.
Outside of this compelling dynamic, characterisation is sketchy and the script contrives longueurs like a washer upper sneaking a cigarette as obvious dramatic pauses between fractious set-pieces.
As Yuletide approaches, staff of swanky Dalston restaurant Jones &; Sons prepare for one of the busiest services of the year.
The night begins with an environmental health officer (Thomas Coombes) downgrading the food hygiene rating to three stars, principally for lapses in paperwork.
Head chef Andy Jones (Graham) is on edge, juggling issues at home involving his young son Nathan, staff absences, and shortages of key ingredients for 100 covers.
Maitre d' Beth (Alice Feetham) allows food influencers to order steak and chips off-menu for a picture-perfect plate worthy of their 30,000 Instagram followers.
Sous chef Carly (Robinson) is apoplectic and publicly chastises Beth for caring more about her social media presence, "like a budget Kardashian", than the smooth running of the kitchen.
Andy's mood darkens when he learns that his former mentor, supercilious celebrity chef Alistair Skye (Jason Flemyng), is booked on to table four with influential food critic Sara Southworth (Lourdes Faberes).
A bigoted customer on table seven and a nut allergy on table 13 turn up the heat on commis chef Freeman (Ray Panthaki), new salad chef Camille (Izuka Hoyle) and waitress Andrea (Lauryn Ajufo) and it's only a matter of time before someone gets burnt.
Boiling Point is a technical tour de force that holds our attention in a vice-like grip even when the scripted storytelling lacks full flavour.
Barantini's high-wire direction intensifies a ball of tension in stomachs made ravenous by a steady stream of mouth-watering morsels leaving the kitchen.
However, the final 10 minutes feel contrived and overwrought after so many beautiful moments of naturalistic angst that melt on the palate.