The setup is a good one – exploring the radical changes that Chinese culture has undergone in this latest period of growth, through the experiences of those at the 5,000+ seat restaurant in a provincial town. Visions of epic kitchens, factory-like conditions and massive rooms soon give way to the fact that we’re about to watch the daily events at what amounts to a theme-style restaurant, no different than the banquet halls or theme park restaurants throughout the world.

A little time is spent investigating the lives of the workers, compared to their much more pampered bosses. The fact that a woman goes from utter poverty to becoming a multi-millionaire is compelling, but after this trivia is revealed, there’s little else to be gained from the story as it’s repeated ad nauseum. The film suffers from the fact that it lacks focus, and does little to say anything particularly revelatory about the situation.

Bonus marks are allotted, as always, for showing me something I’ve not seen before. The scenes of competitive cooking, where live snakes are splayed and served in bite sized chunks, still writhing, proved to be too much for some in the screening. However, it’s the preparation of “live fried fish” that proved to be the most “exotic”, where the cook wraps a towel around the fish’s head, dipping the lower portion in boiling oil. When served, flakes are picked off with chopsticks from the rear, while the head remains untouched, a seeing eye staring up, mouth seemingly gasping for breath, compulsively kissing nothing but air. Over done, and the fish dies. Underdone, and the rear portion looks like throbbing sushi.

It’s hardly worth sitting through the whole film for this little experience, but it’s certainly the closest the film comes to showing something truly different from the rambling mess of the rest of the flick.