'A Bone in the Throat': SXSW Review

Bone in the Throat Still - H 2015
Courtesy of SXSW

Bone in the Throat Still - H 2015

A diverting crime movie that's less distinctive than it might have been

Anthony Bourdain's first novel is transplanted from Manhattan to London.

A bloody crime flick orbiting the kitchen of a fine-dining restaurant, A Bone in the Throat dusts off a novel written by Anthony Bourdain (and reviewed pretty unkindly) a few years before he became a foodie superstar with Kitchen Confidential. The debut film by commercial photographer Graham Henman, it proves to be a diverting if occasionally less-than-thrilling tale, one whose commercial potential lies mostly in the name of its author and in a cast pairing Gossip Girl's Ed Westwick with a gangster played by Tom Wilkinson.

Transplanting the action from Little Italy to London (and tossing out plenty of subplots along the way), the film introduces Westwick's Will, the sous chef at a tony place called Fork. Will lives with the restaurant's hostess Sophie (Vanessa Kirby), daughter of its owner Rupert (Rupert Graves). Will's uncle, an uncouth little fellow known as The Rug (Andy Nyman) is an enforcer for Wilkinson's Charlie (Will's godfather), to whom Rupert owes a ton of money. This family tree is about to lose a branch: While Charlie is conducting an after-hours audition with Will for the job of head chef, Rug breaks in and kills him. He scares Will into helping him clean up, and promises bad things will happen if he talks to anyone.

So Will goes back to work pretending he has no idea where Rupert is, while Rug keeps dropping by to pressure Sophie into paying what her father owes. Suspecting foul play, a detective (Steve Mackintosh, a standout in the cast) starts putting the screws to Will in hopes of working through his uncle to get to Charlie — who all the while is perfecting the menu at his classy little white tablecloth pub across town.

All this action puts a damper on the food porn promised in opening scenes. While kitchen scenes before the killing offer a taste of the color Bourdain would later deliver in Confidential, it's not enough to distinguish Bone from other crime flicks, and viewers drawn in solely by his name will likely feel shorted. The rest of the crowd gets a noirish yarn whose atmosphere of desperation would be more convincing if Westwick's eyes were more expressive. Drama on the gang side of things works fine, with Rug and his bloodthirsty partner doing things much too carelessly for their well-groomed superiors, but the script finds less life in the tension at the restaurant. A muddy sound mix, in which dialogue can get lost under kitchen noises and effects, doesn't help matters much.

Production company: Dignity Film Finance
Cast: Ed Westwick, Tom Wilkinson, Rupert Graves, Vanessa Kirby, John Hannah, Steve Mackintosh, Andy Nyman 
Director: Graham Henman
Screenwriters: Graham Henman, Mark Townend
Producers: Nick Thurlow, Lenny Beckerman, Maggie Monteith
Executive producers: Anthony Bourdain, Jamie Donaldson
Director of photography: Felix Weidemann
Production designer: Miren Maranon
Costume designer: Bic Owen
Editor: Gabriel Wrye
Music: Lorne Balfe
Casting director: Sasha Robertson
Sales: Jay Cohen, The Gersh Agency
No rating, 98 minutes