Burnt

Burnt movie poster

Release: Friday, October 30, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Steven Knight; Michael Kalesniko

Directed by: John Wells

Brad Cooper is a dish best served cold in this kitchen drama, starring him as a lunatic chef in what seems to be the pinnacle of culinary kick-assery in downtown London. There’s not much fat on these bones but Cooper and some of the other actors — Daniel Brühl is becoming reliable — aren’t exactly gristle. There’s not a very good story around them but these are some pretty great performances.

To use another cute food metaphor, Cooper’s Adam Jones is far from a savory personality. He’s a former drug addict and possessor of virtually every vice one could be accused of having. He barks orders and berates his fellow chefs when things go wrong; he owes a great amount of money to some strangers; he’s generally an intense and unpleasant person to be around. He’s almost superheroic in his distrust of others.

One day Adam decides to get clean and go take over an old friend’s son (Brühl)’s kitchen and cook, you know, the really good stuff. Because that’s how it happens; you can sometimes cook yourself back to sanity. His goal is to achieve a three-star Michelin rating, by all accounts an arbitrary bestowing of honor to all those who don’t spend most of their lives making food. Jones has been a two-star chef for sometime, but to achieve one more would be to become a Kitchen God. You achieve immortality. You become Gordon Ramsey.

Burnt is co-written by a man named Steven Knight, a name that’s likely unfamiliar to those who have yet to experience his brilliantly minimalist Tom Hardy-driven (literally) drama Locke from yesteryear. Minimalism plays a hand once again here, only it’s not to the benefit of the production. Characters, including Cooper’s prima donna, are uniformly underwritten and after a few brief visits to Emma Thompson’s psychiatrist and a few brief flirtations with Sienna Miller’s Helene it becomes clear Burnt is very much a movie of the present, and could care less about fully investing in Jones’ past or his life away from the kitchen.

It’s odd that Knight couldn’t produce a more palatable dish out of Michael Kalesniko’s story. I ponder this not because these characters feel unbelievable or that the food doesn’t look appealing. Neither case is the issue here; in fact the decision to place actors in an environment where all props are not props at all but are instead the genuine articles, contributes to credibility. And Cooper has shown in times past he’s comfortable playing the not-so-nice guy. Rather my concern is over consistency. Knight was onto something with his 2014 psychological drama but now it seems he’s settled back into more crowd-pleasing confectionaries.

Burnt can only justify itself as a cinematic release on the virtue of its star wattage. In every other way this is a package made for television. It would sit beautifully alongside popular shows like Hell’s KitchenKitchen Nightmares or even Chopped. Not to downplay the power of TV drama. Watching good-looking people slave over even-better-looking cuisine and listening to Daniel Brühl romanticize his relationship with one of Europe’s most overblown egotists wouldn’t be the worst way to spend time around the box in the living room.

Yet with a cast this good — one that includes Omar Sy as an ‘old friend’ of Adam’s from his days in Paris, Alicia Vikander as a former flame, and Uma Thurman as an infamously difficult-to-please food critic — it’s more than a little disappointing this run-of-the-mill tale of redemption is as expendable as the next late night McDonald’s run a night shift worker is all but forced into making for the sake of convenience.

Brad Cooper is pissed off all the time in 'Burnt'

Recommendation: Star power is the name of the game here. Fans of Brad Cooper probably will have a hard time resisting this one and he’s definitely great in the lead. But Burnt seems a cheap cash-in on the recent trend of celebrity chef dramas on TV which I, personally, have great difficulty in finding the appeal. I can’t say this movie is a waste of time but it’s a waste of a lot of great talent.

Rated: R

Running Time: 101 mins.

Quoted: “I don’t want my resturant to be a place where people sit and eat. I want people to sit at that table and be sick with longing.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.rottentomatoes.com

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30 thoughts on “Burnt

    • I don’t take much offense from the title but it is a bit hokey, isn’t it? Brad Cooper is committed but he’s hardly a redeemable character. I mean, I guess he is but this story is pretty lame. You won’t be missing anything

  1. Bwahahahaha, well played. Didn’t even know about this and can’t say that I am amped. Definitely seems that it isn’t worth it. Unlike last year’s Chef, which was amazing and made me hungry and was plenty fun .

    • Chef was great as it didn’t try to be anything it wasn’t. With this, you could tell the filmmakers are trying to capitalize on the success of shows like Hell’s Kitchen etc. and it comes off pretty awkwardly. That, and in Chef, Jon Favreau wasn’t a massive tool/douche. Ha! Harsh words, yes, but wait until you see this flick . . . Yikes.

  2. This has got butched over here. I must admit to having absolutely no desire to watch Cooper playing someone who shouts at people and acts like a douche. He’s a good actor, but this looks like a bad meal.

    • I have loved reading reviews on this, both the good and the bad. I don’t think I’ve seen a film review that hasn’t tossed in a few food-puns to describe it and i just love it! Your comment is sizzling with them, too. On a scale of fast-food dinner to three-star Michelin haute cuisine, this is pub fare at best.

      And you should probably skip this one as you’ve perfectly summed it up yourself. It’s a lot of Brad Cooper shouting and then he stops, looks in the mirror, and realizes, ‘Hey, I gotta change.’

    • Ehh-oohh!! 😉

      Yes this was an underachiever. I definitely didn’t mind getting to see Cooper and Brühl interact, though. Those two are great actors. They deserved a better movie and that’s where I deducted most of my points. Oh wait, I judge my films based on a pie-rating. There’s no escaping the food this time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. The trailer for this did not grab me at all. Seems there is a reason for that. I will still probably check it out at some point. I think your comment about it being made for TV is telling, not that it’s a criticism but maybe this should just have gone straight to Netflix.

    • Yeah I don’t think b/c it would play well on TV necessarily means it’s a bad movie but the fact it was released in cinemas is almost gimmicky. It was kind of telling when I was in there watching this and listening to various audience members react to every mean thing Cooper’s character does or says. For a film with almost no real drama in it, people sure were overreacting. Like I imagine how people do when they watch Gordon Ramsey get pissed off lol

  4. This is actually a better score than I was expecting. I have seen the trailer for this over and over and for some reason I never found it convincing. Thankfully it doesn’t sound nearly as bad as I was expecting. Good one Tom!

    • Much obliged Keith. Burnt gets a positive rating from me b/c I find it so hard to dislike Brad Cooper even when he’s playing these jerks. And Daniel Brühl really puts it over for me, he can do no wrong in my book. Wish the story wasn’t so half-baked, though. To use yet another food pun. 😉

  5. I’m with you – never understood the appeal of cooking dramas, especially the competition based ones. You can’t smell and you can’t taste, so what’s the point?!? :/

    • Haha great point! I haven’t thought about its failure to provide the ability to actually smell and taste the subject matter; which is the whole point of making food that looks so exotic. Actually wait, is it? Isn’t this fancy stuff just for show anyway? 😉

    • Thank you, it’s not the best but its got Brad Cooper doing fine work so there’s definitely that to look forward to. Not the nicest of guys of course, but Cooper’s proven before he can be likable while being a miserable person. Tough thing to pull off. 🙂

    • Thanks Vinnie! the whole thing about Burnt is that the cast is putting a ton of energy into something that’s just barely average. It’s really frustrating. Some good acting but the story is really bland. I think you’d be ok missing out on it! 🙂

      • I hate when a good cast is somewhat wasted on a bland story, it’s a real waste. I did a post of my dream movie cast that has been warmly received.

  6. I caught a couple of really negative reviews of this at the end of last week that put me off, so it’s nice to read something a little more positive. To be honest I’m still not that keen, but maybe I’ll give it a go when it’s available to watch at home. It’s a really impressive cast.

    • The cast make up for a lot, I have to say. Cooper and Bruhl I love in particular, not just in this but in anything they do. I wish Vikander had more to do and I’m honestly not all that high on Sienna Miller yet but Burnt is for sure better off b/c of everyone’s contributions. I think Chef is still the better, more recent food film.

    • Thanks buddy. Can’t say I got a lot out of it though. Brad Cooper and Daniel Brühl’s performances were good enough to recommend but the rest, not so much.

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