This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
Zinos Kazantzakis looks like a mop-topped, mutton-chopped, slightly overstuffed dolma doing its best to stand upright. He's the Greek-German proprietor of a funky hangout in a run-down industrial area of Hamburg, Germany, that serves up soul music nightly, mostly on vinyl platters from the '60s and '70s. On the side, there's some less-than-soulful comfort food — mainly fries and pizza — to help soak up the booze and fuel the action on the dance floor.
Zinos (Adam Bousdoukos) is having trouble remaining erect for several reasons. He has injured a disc in his back, causing him to move about in pain like a stiff-necked ostrich; his girlfriend is moving to China and is mad he won't come with her; his brother is on work release from prison and is asking him for a job; he's just hired a hot-tempered chef whose talents are way too haute for Soul Kitchen; he's being pursued by real estate speculators, tax officials, the health department. In short, all the breaks are breaking bad for Zinos.
Acclaimed director Fatih Akin, born in Hamburg to Turkish parents, is best known for the emotionally harrowing "Head On" (2004) and the transcendent "The Edge of Heaven" (2007). "Soul Kitchen" couldn't be more unlike those movies; it's a shaggy, messy, screwy comedy based on the food-industry experiences of Bousdoukos, the film's star and Akin's best friend since childhood.
That puts the loose-limbed groove of "Soul Kitchen" into perspective: Yes, this is the kind of movie you might make for, about and with your best friend, for no other reason than to have fun recapturing a period in your lives when you spent a lot of time at a "third place," eating, drinking, dancing and listening to music late into the night, every night.