Boiling Point

Boiling Point ★★★★

Stephen Graham is another of those unsung British actors who continues to deliver stellar acting performances in a host of diverse roles. His film career is mostly littered with supporting roles in everything from Pirates of the Caribbean to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, to his memorable turn as Leeds United and Scotland skipper Billy Bremner in Tom Hooper's The Damned United, Graham can mix it with the best. His television work arguably gave him his best roles, with This is England 86', Boardwalk Empire, and Line of Duty cementing his status as one of the actors of his generation. Tortured souls is his forte, complex characters with demons, personal issues, and he isn't afraid to take on socially aware or politically sensitive roles either. In 2019 Graham faced his biggest test, squaring up to Pacino, De Niro, and Pesci in Scorsese's The Irishman, a film in which he didn't look out of place among acting legends, yet more proof that Graham could hold his own.

Boiling Point is a fitting title for director Philip Barantini's restaurant/kitchen set drama. Graham plays the head chef of a restaurant where every facet of the operation is flawed, with Graham's Andy's addiction to both alcohol and a bit of the dusty showbiz, just the tip of the iceberg. The staff are a mixture of clueless and lazy, with only Ray Panthaki's Freeman and Vinette Robinson's Carly giving their all in the pursuit of delivering a top notch dining experience. Andy's constant lateness, his own personal problems, and his alcoholism is destroying what little morale his kitchen team have, and the way writer/director Barantini ups the pressure cooker setting is brilliantly done. Little things become big things, animosity grows between them all as issues arise from a lack of cohesion, and Andy's night will be further ruined by the visit of a celebrity chef and a food critic he's brought along for a meal. There's a boiling point coming, and when things go turbo, things are said that can't be taken back, cannot be forgotten, and threatens the restaurant itself.

Barantini's film feels very organic, like there is a sprinkling of ad-libbing at times, which just makes the tension rise like a thermometer. The camera movement, the horrible customers, and then that allergy flashpoint, put you right in the midst of the chaos, and it is very cleverly achieved. When Carly snaps you can see the built-up vitriol boil to the surface, and it was a definite highlight in a film that seemed to have me on edge the entire runtime. Andy's inevitable meltdown doesn't come as a shock, but the way the film ends does. Graham's performance as Andy, with the drinking and the drugs is raw and unflinching, but when you consider that Stephen Graham is tea-total, it makes it all the more impressive. Jason Flemyng's celebrity chef was typical of what those cunts bring to the table, it becomes about fame, books, television work, and the food takes a back seat while they attempt to reap the benefits of being in the public eye, I hated his character, reminded me of Jamie Oliver with the same punchable face, and it wasn't a surprise that Graham's Andy didn't want him there.

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