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When Evil Lurks

Inner city London has been represented in countless ways over the years, but one thing that always remains a constant in every variation is the depiction of its community. Daniel Kaluuya and Kibwe Tavare’s directional debut The Kitchen, which is fresh to Netflix, represents London and its people once again, but this time, in a dystopian future that still harbours many of the same issues being battled in the present day. Affordable housing, the ever-widening gap between rich and poor, and the general poverty that afflicts communities are magnified ten-fold in The Kitchen, but it's a blossoming partnership between two characters that tries to take centre stage in this urban science fiction drama.


‘The Kitchen’ is a social housing project that houses the poorest of the poor, one that has changed over time and is the last authentically homely area around. The political powers at the top frequently target this community with police raids and aim to destroy it as soon as possible. Izi (Kane Robinson) is one of the many tenants living in ‘The Kitchen’ but dreams of living in one of the more affluent high rises on the outskirts of this dilapidated one. Izi works for a funeral home that allows those who cannot afford to bury their loved ones the old-fashioned way, a chance to turn them into trees that can be planted – they might just be on to something with that concept though.

The Kitchen

Izi – the self-confessed loner – has his simplistic life interrupted when he recognizes a name on the funeral register at work, which forces the newly orphaned Benji (Jedaiah Bannerman) into his life of solitude. Benji, without a parental figure to now guide him, clings to Izi as his big hope, while also fluttering with a local gang of older youths led by Staples (Hope Ikpoku Jr) who act as resistant fighters of sorts. Now feeling responsible for caring for the son of a woman he once knew, Izi begins to bond with young Benji and teaches him about the way the world works. Izi is so close to achieving his dream of a better life, but still facing the ever-present brutality of the police on his doorstep, will Izi make it out of ‘The Kitchen’ with his newfound friend?


The Kitchen is far from being the finished product, but for a directional debut, it’s a very sturdy first entry for the directing duo. Kaluuya has used his knowledge of the streets and his own upbringing to merge it with his experience of fluttering with Hollywood pictures. Working with some great directors himself, especially in the science fiction genre has clearly rubbed off on him as he and his partner create this impressive illustration of a futuristic London. The depiction of ‘The Kitchen’ is impressive and its presence is vast. Similar in appearance and feel to the community enclaves in Pierre Morel’s District 13, while the youth-led communities that exist through their own set of rules take inspiration from Walter Hill’s The Warriors. It’s this combination of dystopian concepts that lends itself to The Kitchen really effectively. Speaking of the latter as well though, the DJ, 'Lord Kitchener' (played by the effervescent Ian Wright) is another great homage to Hill’s classic film.

The story is a little flat at times, as well as being guilty of feeling repetitive and glaringly obvious. The film’s mysterious secret, which unveils itself in the final act, is one that you can see from a mile off. Izi and Benji’s relationship also feels slightly rushed, with the initial hostility soon being forgotten about and leading into something a little forced that lacks a creative punchline.

The Kitchen

What The Kitchen does have are some stellar performances that help it in those trying times. Kane Robinson (known for his electrifying stint in the acclaimed Top Boy) is once again playing another version of himself it seems, but he does so with a coarse ruggedness that automatically creates charisma, and when you add a touch of emotion to the writing of his character, that’s when he lets fly properly. Newcomer Jedaiah Bannerman is a great foil – and also adds a humorous tone to proceedings – for Robinson’s edgier approach. Top Boy cast member Hope Ikpoku Jr also delivers a really mature performance, cementing him as a talent to keep an eye on in the future.

What Kaluuya and Tavare created at the first attempt might lack cohesiveness at times, but the world they sculpted was highly impressive. London looks great in this future version of itself, it’s just a shame that it was underutilized and pushed into the background in favour of an uninspiring relationship between its two primary characters. The vision is there, and the imagination to create such a bleak and unrelenting future is imposing – the inspiration they took from present-day surroundings is clear to see as well – but the writing and the fleshing out of the characters is what the film lacks the most. There’s plenty to learn from though, and I’m sure the duo will head back to the writing board for a second cinematic outing in the not-too-distant future.


Rating When Evil Lurks



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