You’d think kebab shops would be some of the unlikeliest of locations for weighty social discourse to take place, but if you’ve seen recent reality television offerings “The Fried Chicken Shop” (UK) or “Kebab Kings” (Australia) you’ll have realized that’s exactly what they are. Both of those shows revolve around immigrant-owned fast food outlets, and examine them as hallowed grounds where Middle East meets West on a daily basis. These are places where halal food and Middle Eastern culture are offered up for consumption with varying degrees of appreciation by anglocentric society, and have become a halfway point of sorts by default.
Dan Pringle’s K-SHOP centers on Salah (Ziad Abaza), whose father owns a kebab shop in the party district of a British town. He’s studying politics at university and wants to make a difference, caring more for his country than the local white revelers who regularly leave the streets in littered ruin. Smug club owner Jason Brown (Scot Williams) is preparing to open a new venue in the area, threatening to overrun the area with drugs and undesirables. After his father is pushed to the ground and killed by drunk thugs, Salah turns vigilante and finds a new ingredient for his kebabs: human flesh.
We’re treated to several montages of excess – some of them intercut with shots of Salah writing his dissertation – consisting of debauchery on the streets as white millennials binge-drink, punch and fuck each other into vomitous oblivion. These segments are so convincing and true to life that it makes you wonder if they just turned their cameras on during an ordinary Friday night.
Ziad Abaza – who looks like Daniel Tosh’s Middle Eastern doppleganger – gives an admirable performance in the lead role. It’s hard not to side with Salah, considering the film’s intensity when it comes to depicting the racist tirades and abuse he receives from the local drunk fauna. The script asks us to examine the pressures faced by immigrants to succeed in their countries they now call home against the resistance of its white inhabitants.
As an audience, we’re hopefully compelled to cheer Salah on as he fights back against the privileged whiTe British establishment. Interestingly though, when you step back and look at what he’s actually doing, Salah is someone who has fallen into committing acts of perverse murder, mutilation and forced cannibalism. Should we really be sympathizing with him, or should we be thinking of him as a terrorist, out to destroy the culture he’s unable to assimilate into and become part of? It’s left up to the viewer to decide.
Besides the political overtones, this is a well made low budget piece. It’s shot and edited with style beyond other films with similar resources, and the performances are impressive all around. The story has its own flavour despite borrowing elements from SWEENY TODD and a range of other cannibalistic horror films. I was reminded of the “Tales From the Crypt” episode What’s Cookin’(another take on the restaurateur-feeds-customers-human-flesh story) even though the tone of K-SHOP couldn’t be more different.
This is a very British movie, and it’s hard to tell if it would translate successfully to a US audience where “kebab shop culture” isn’t really a thing. Regardless, K-SHOP is timely and socially pertinent, especially considering recent events on the world stage of politics. Of course, I’m talking about the rise of Donald Trump with direct reference to his divisive ideology surrounding the issue of immigration, and how such division affects the people at the centre of it. K-SHOP tackles the topic head on while also managing to be one of the more compelling serial killer films to come along in recent memory.