Bitter Feast could have packed a satirical punch. Peter Gray (James LeGros), a celebrity chef losing his reputation to his ever-escalating pretension and egomania, kidnaps JT Franks (Joshua Leonard), a celebrity blogger who makes his living glibly pissing on seemingly every New York eatery’s reputation. At its best, this premise might have led to the movie that finally (adequately) addresses the anonymous power that the Internet has granted everyone overnight; at its less-than-best, it still might have been a cheeky, gleefully deranged Theater of Blood for the Web set, with Gray instilling in Franks an appreciation of the craft that the equally pompous blogger has torn down from afar.
Initially, there are suggestions that writer-director Joe Maggio might be up to something campy and enjoyable—including a few mildly amusing exchanges with a character who almost has to be intended as a caricature of Kelly Ripa. LeGros and Leonard, promisingly, look and behave nearly the same: Both are blond, thinning on top, a little heavier than they were or need to be. That heaviness is particularly indicative; Gray and Franks are puffed up on their smug, enclosed self-absorption. This type of film normally asks you to feel for the artist, which, in this case, would be the chef, but LeGros is even more of a monster than Leonard; another promising idea that you assume will lead to a revelation that each man is equally deluded with entitlement, only with a differing method of feeding said entitlement.
You assume, and hope, that the film will lead to an escalation of wills, with the chef’s taunts growing to parallel his failing TV show, as he’s reduced to a literally captive audience of one. All of these suggestions are revealed to be accidents though, as the film turns out to be another horror movie with someone chained in a basement, weathering indignities at the hands of another madman with childhood trauma—and said indignities hardly even tie into the loony chef gimmick. Bitter Feast is just another tedious torture picture, a subgenre so tiresome it welcomes a little hackish JT Franks-style snark. I’ll give it a try: Bitter Feast is bitter indeed.