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Bitter Feast



Restaurateur and chef Peter Gray (James LeGros, "Drugstore Cowboy") takes the news of his TV show gets axed rather poorly. Instead of moving on to the next project, he blames arrogant food blogger JT Franks (Joshua Leonard, "The Blair Witch Project"), whose savage reviews have hounded Gray his entire career.

Going a little mad, harkening back to a disturbing childhood incident he's kept secret, Gray kidnaps Franks, holds him captive and starves him. Gray then issues the would-be food expert a series of cooking challenges that Franks has to execute with perfection if he wishes to eat. That includes making eggs over easy and grilling a steak, both difficult to do when your hands are tied, literally.

And just wait until what Gray has in mind for open raviolo with wild rabbit and mulberries.

What begins as a near-comedy with a jet-black streak of humor turns hopelessly bleak as Gray's grasp on reality not only slips, but just gives up and lets go. LeGros gives a great performance along the way, however, managing to make outbursts like "No runny yellows!" seem terrifying instead of laughable. He's matched by Leonard, whose asshole veneer crumbles when he no longer has a keyboard to wage his war against the chef. Those reviews, which we hear several of, contain some of the sharpest writing you'll witness in modern genre cinema.

It's inevitable that "Bitter Feast" stumbles in its third act, when Gray brings Franks' near-estranged wife (Amy Seimetz) into the mix, and a premise of originality becomes one of second helpings. Until then, however, Maggio's work is one of tasty promise. —Rod Lott


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