I’ve been waiting all this foul year of our lord for K-Shop to be available in the U.S. Oh sure, several friends suggested a few methods, some less savory than others, by which I could have watched the UK version on my computer, and while I’m not the most ethical creature I know, I am one of the more paranoid.
So I waited.
First let me say I like this movie. It speaks to my own overdeveloped sense of vengeance and my contempt for the dude bros invading my favorite local bar.
Still, I’m not sure the wait was entirely worth it.
Here’s how IMDB describes K-Shop: “A kebab shop owner’s son, Salah, turns vigilante after his father’s death in an effort to clean up the relentless onslaught of boozed up thrill seekers waging war on his doorstep.” Sounds kinda simplistic and Batman if you ask me.
Sure, the premise is simple, but IMDB is missing a few important details. Salah (Ziad Abaza) is a graduate student in socioeonomics. His dissertation, ironically, is “The Role of Social Economics in the Building of Modern Cultures.”
It turns out that helping out at his father, Zaki’s (Nayef Rashed) kebab shop while Zaki recovers in the hospital is about to provide Salah with some disheartening field research, specifically into binge drinking culture.
Shortly after returning to the shop, Zaki is killed in an altercation with some drunk partiers. From there, K-Shop pulls off at the next Sweeney Todd exit.
Not so Batman after all.
But it’s not entirely as simple as that summary either. For one thing, the meat pies in Sweeney Todd were Mrs. Lovett’s idea. The doner kebabs, which I’m tempted to call “long lamb,” are entirely Salah’s doing. Also, though they both kill for revenge, Sweeney Todd is indiscriminate while Salah is somewhat more, for lack of a better word, judicious.
There are undertones as well of Eating Raoul and even Delicatessan.
The point is, there are some plot differences. Still, the moment Salah looks at his first victim (to be fair, an accident), then at the kebab meat, you can almost hear Helena Bonham Carter starting into the opening of “A Little Priest.” There’s also nothing appealing about the partiers. It may not be fair to say they get what they deserve, but we really aren’t bothered by what happens to them.
And while there’s a fair amount of gore to be had, director Dan Pringle more often seems content to repeatedly show us the end result of what looks like an alarming binge drinking culture, namely drunk people vomiting and urinating in the street. In fact, it’s been mentioned that Pringle used a good amount of candid shots from late nights in Bournemouth.
Still, there’s something cynical not very far beneath K-Shop’s surface, and that’s what makes it ultimately just a little confusing. For one thing, there’s a scene in which, although for significantly different reasons, Salah ends up looking and acting exactly like those very people whose humanity he questions earlier. And like the murder of Kitty Genovese, nobody helps. In fact, nobody so much as stops to see if Salah is even okay.
It’s not that Salah becomes what he despises. Are we supposed to see it as the basic self-involvement of the self-indulgent binge drinking culture, or is this some kind of political statement about British attitudes toward immigrants? What’s more, Salah is Turkish. Jason Brown, the nightclub owner antagonist, is British.
In itself, that’s an interesting area worth exploring. But given the outcome of K-Shop, you wonder what Pringle is suggesting in terms of the relationship between immigrants (and their British-born children) and the culture he portrays them as assimilating into. It’s something that K-Shop never really makes clear.