UK Release Date: 22nd July 2016
Runtime: 117 minutes
Director: Dan Pringle
Writer: Dan Pringle
Starring: Ziad Abaza, Scot Williams, Reece Noi, Darren Morfitt, Kristin Atherton, Ewen MacIntosh
Synopsis: A kebab shop owner, grief-stricken after the death of his father, is driven to murder in an attempt to teach a lesson to the binge drinking masses of a British seaside town.
It’s no secret that the UK loves its binge drinking. A cursory wander around any town centre at night is enough to prove that, when Brits go out, they don’t stop until their blood-alcohol level is more like an alcohol-blood level. It’s almost surprising, therefore, that this national pastime has gone largely unexplored by the country’s film industry… at least until K-Shop – writer-director Dan Pringle‘s feature debut. It’s a blood-soaked vigilante tale with a wicked sense of humour and a twist of social commentary.
Salah (Ziad Abaza) takes over his father’s kebab shop when he is killed after an altercation with a group of young men. After a new nightclub is opened in his seaside town by celebrity sleazeball Jason Brown (Scot Williams), Salah is shocked by an influx of rowdy, uncouth drunks in his store. When he accidentally kills one of them at the end of a particularly busy night, Salah chops his body up and serves it in the shop as a rather grim doner substitute. Years later, Salah begins to question his murderous ways after the arrival of young apprentice Malik (Reece Noi) and hotelier Sarah (Kristin Atherton). Meanwhile, one of his captives, Steve (Darren Morfitt), has more to him than the smell of booze.
K-Shop is the kind of film that doesn’t find its way into cinemas very often. It’s a brash, brutal take on the reality of British culture that refuses to pull punches in its depiction of the grim underbelly of the country’s nightlife. C-bombs are dropped with aplomb, body parts are hacked, fluids are spilled and it’s all done with style and flair by Pringle’s direction, which keeps the story moving at an impressive pace and with a real sense of the frenetic energy of the streets after dark.
At the centre of it all is Ziad Abaza, leading a film for the first time with a performance that focuses on duality. Abaza is capable of portraying the mild-mannered politics student exasperated by the inebriated antics of those around him, but also the ferocious killer driven by his moral campaign to clean up the streets. It’s a fascinating performance that Abaza manages to carry off with intensity and complexity, without ever losing the easygoing sense of humour that helps get the audience on his side in the early stages. Equally compelling is his chemistry with the sadly underused Kristin Atherton, with whom Salah has a blossoming friendship. The spark between them is extinguished far too quickly as the story moves to a conclusion.
Abaza is in nearly every scene, but K-Shop also benefits from a stellar British supporting cast. Scot Williams is terrifically detestable as the manifestation of everything depressing about modern celebrity and Game of Thrones actor Reece Noi brings youthful edge as the apprentice keen to join Salah on his moral crusade, unaware of the disturbing truth lurking below the shop. Pringle gives each of these performers memorable dialogue to chew on and, though the characters aren’t necessarily fleshed out beyond basic outlines, they are utilised well in moving the story along.
There are some devices that don’t quite work. Chapter headings do little to inform the timeline shifts and just end up disrupting the film’s pace in the early stages. K-Shop also suffers a little when it brings in a wider conspiracy about a drug operation, which is considerably less interesting than Salah’s fascinating moral wranglings. This is a film that thrives on subtext, particularly in the case of a third act gag about the misconception of immigration being at the centre of everything that feels incredibly prescient in the thrall of post-Brexit racism.
It may be flawed in elements of its execution but for a feature debut, K-Shop‘s moral message is delivered with an impressive visual flair. Lighting hints at the fractured mental state of the movie’s protagonist and Bournemouth, where the film was shot, provides a telling authenticity to the depiction of late night carnage by the sea. It’s a ferocious and macabre rant on the state of the nation conveyed with an icky sense of humour that will ensure you pause the next time you’re about to munch your way through a pile of doner.
Pop or Poop?
K-Shop is a brutal and impactful horror-thriller driven by a killer concept and a smart script. It’s searing social commentary with real teeth, refusing to sanitise or sugar-coat the sheer, cacophonous insanity of the streets after the lights of the clubs have been turned off.
It’s a film that deserves to make a star of Ziad Abaza after his terrific central performance and one that will definitely mark Dan Pringle out as a filmmaker to watch in the British industry, whatever he chooses to do next.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.