If you have ever wanted to see a film about a kebab shop owner turned vigilante, then writer/director Dan Pringle’s 2016 independent film K-Shop is the one to watch.

When I recently sat down to watch K-Shop, the film’s description described it as a dark comedy where a kebab shop owner starts seeking justice against his drunk and disorderly customers. Now, within the first twenty minutes or so I found the description somewhat misleading because I had imagined it as a British equivalent of the 2010 film Super where Rainn Wilson - after having his wife leave him - decides to become a superhero and punish criminals. However, Wilson's method seems to be targeting rude people with little consideration for others, such as someone stealing his place in line at the cinema, and brutally beating them with a wrench while yelling ‘Shut up crime!’

This is where I expected the comedic element to come from in this film, the irrational vigilante punishing drunks over the smallest altercation or incident.

Instead, I initially saw a lot of the dark and very little of the comedy.

When the film begins we see Salah (played by actor Ziad Abaza), a student struggling to get through his course, while simultaneously trying to run his father’s kebab shop while his father is recovering in hospital. To make matters worse the shop seems to be placed right in the centre of one of the most popular streets for nights out; meaning his main customers are drunk British people often hurling abuse in his direction - whether it’s urinating through his letter box, throwing chips at him or making insinuations about his race. It doesn’t help that the police seem indifferent about helping when he reported a brawl breaking out, given it took them three hours to respond. Salah is trapped behind his counter forced to serve slurring idiots, because in all food service business, customer service is key.

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Things briefly look up as his father comes out of hospital and offers his son support, telling him not to take it personally; the older man has had many more years of experience dealing with said drunks. Sadly, things only escalate from here, while Salah is in the back, Salah’s dad is sitting in the middle of the restaurant when a group come knocking on the door demanding food. Despite the door being locked they don’t seem to understand that they are not open.

The poor, already sick, man opens the door only to be pushed over and abandoned on the doorstep of his own shop. A distressed Salah discovers his father, bleeding from the back of the head, out cold and not responding. Despite knowing what happened the police are unable to get the specific drunken idiots without a witness. Pushed over the edge Salah finally snaps with his next disrespectful customer and deep fries his face. With his first taste of blood-lust Salah ups his game by not only waiting for the next victim to come into his shop, but rather stalks his rude customers without allowing them to get away.

Not forgetting Salah's inventive way to get rid of a large part of his murdered customers, in a very Sweeney Todd fashion, we see Salah serve the remains of his first victim as lamb meat to two customers with very poor character. While this is the only moment where we see him decide to feed one customer with another, given how many more he kills it is likely he also fed some more innocent customers his highly praised 'lamb' meat, blurring the lines between vigilante and psychotic murderer.

So why did this film turn out to be so enjoyable to watch?

Yet to my own surprise, by the end of the film I found myself having enjoyed it immensely and actually rooting for the tragic protagonist, despite my initial discomfort. After, I thought about why that might be, and thinking over not only about the characters but what the film presented visually; making my conclusion to how critics felt compelled to give this film a five star rating somewhat disturbing.

British people have a culture based around drinking and this film depicts characters that represent the worst parts of that culture. Being that it brings out a person's worst qualities, the loud, obnoxious and more often than not violent tendencies we all seem to possess after drinking too much alcohol. We have all been on a night out and had it ruined by some loud-mouthed drunk, whether it's someone shouting abuse in the kebab shop when all you want to do is order, or someone that has started an argument over something completely irrelevant, they just really like the sound of their own voice at that moment.

By subtly including additional shots of the most irritating actions of inebriated club goers, just to make sure the point of how insufferable they are, what Pringle has done is provide us with a visual medium where we can vicariously live out our desire to shut these people up. We can take some guilty pleasure in cheering for this sadistic vigilante, as Pringle uses the drunks in his film to provoke our anger, while Salah's actions help us live out fantasies most people have surely had when they have come across a catastrophe of our drinking culture.

You may never eat another lamb doner again but hopefully this film will make people think twice about getting ridiculously drunk and ruining everyone else's night.

#Murder #Thriller #Independent Film