2 November 2015 | 9:59 am | Guy Davis

"One has to admire ... the integrity it shows in making its protagonist an irredeemable dick."

Burnt whips up a familiar dish with familiar ingredients - yes, it's another story of a gifted but difficult individual who believes his talents give him carte blanche to treat other people like shit. But one has to admire the texture it displays, the feel of authenticity it gives off and the integrity it shows in making its protagonist an irredeemable dick. Until it's time for his redemption, of course. But Burnt makes him work for it, and the happy-ish ending feels warranted as a result.

The anti-hero in this case is master chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper), who returns from a self-imposed five-year exile to rebuild his reputation in London, after booze and drugs derailed his brilliant kitchen career. Calling in favours and re-establishing damaged relationships, he sets out to make his restaurant not only the most successful spot in town (his goal is the elusive third Michelin star, the mark of a true culinary champ) but create truly transcendent eating experiences for his clientele. If he doesn't run afoul of rival chefs or debt-chasing drug dealers first, that is.

Burnt does a solid job of conveying the semi-outlaw subculture of people who prepare food professionally, whether in funky vans or high-end establishments - there's a vibrant hustle and bustle to the film's kitchen sequences. But it's even more successful in how it explores the ego of elite practitioners and the fine line between confidence and arrogance, especially how much the people in the orbit of such practitioners are able to tolerate.

It's easy to see what drew Cooper to the lead role - who doesn't want to play the best of the best? But to his credit, he doesn't soft-pedal his character's unappealing aspects in the least, while somewhat managing to retain the audience's interest (if not sympathy). And he's surrounded by a strong ensemble, many of whom (Ex Machina's Alicia Vikander and The Americans' Matthew Rhys in particular) make lasting impressions with only a handful of scenes.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter