Dan's Review: It's a Good Idea to Stay out of "The Kitchen"
Aug 09, 2019 12:21PM
● By Dan Metcalf
Elisabeth Moss, Melissa McCarthy, and Tiffany Haddish in The Kitchen - © 2019 Warner Bros.
The Kitchen (Warner Bros.)
Rated R for violence, language throughout and some sexual content.
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Camp, Margo Martindale, Common, Brian d'Arcy James, James Badge Dale, Jeremy Bobb, Alicia Coppola, E.J. Bonilla, James Ciccone, Myk Watford, John Sharian, Stephen Singer, Brandon Uranowitz, Annabella Sciorra.
Written by Andrea Berloff, based on the comic by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle.
Directed by Andrea Berloff.
I’ve always been a little wary of movies about mobsters, since the audience is usually encouraged to root for main protagonists who are, after all, killers and criminals. Living in an apparent moral society where no one is above the law and due process serves as a lynchpin to our constitutional republic, “heroes” gunning down other gangsters makes for an interesting form of entertainment. With increased awareness of gender equity surrounding movies studios, it’s the “ladies’ turn” to play badass mobsters in this weekend’s release of The Kitchen, starring Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss.
Set in 1979, it’s the story of three wives of mob “wise guys” who are left to fend for themselves and their families after their husbands are sent to prison for three years. Their local mob leaders are supposed to support the women with “family” money during their prison sentences, but the money doesn’t cover the monthly bills. Desperate to make ends meet, the women form their own gang and take over “protection money” collection from local businesses in Hell’s Kitchen, despite opposition from their Irish “family” matriarch Helen (Margo Martindale), who treat the trio like garbage. Being African-American, the mistreatment from the tight circle of Irish mobsters is even tougher for Ruby (Haddish). Kathy (McCarthy) is trying to raise two kids, while Claire (Moss) carries deep scars from years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her (now) incarcerated husband. As the women gain the trust of the local business leaders, they turn to violent means, including wiping out most “the family’s” henchmen, including Helen’s son Jackie (Myk Watford). With full control of Hell’s Kitchen, the women catch the attention of the “Brooklyn” side, A.K.A., the Italian mob. The ladies strike up a deal with Italian mob leader Alfonso Coretti (Bill Camp) and set out to expand further into the NYC boroughs. But trouble looms among the women as divisions, secret agendas, and power struggles set in, along with a dogged FBI agent (Common) closing in on them. When the husbands get an early release, things get even more complicated, leading to an all-out war among the lady leaders. Claire’s romantic relationship with hitman Gabriel (Domhnall Gleeson) is increasingly problematic as her life threatened even more.
The Kitchen is a disappointment on many levels, rife with mobster movie clichés, racial/religious stereotypes, silly plot twists, and predictable outcomes. If all we’re doing is offering up a token “turn” for women in roles traditionally held by men, at least the producers might have come up with a plausible scenario and something a little more distinctive from so many other mobster movies. Case in point, if you were to recast The Kitchen with male lead characters, the result wouldn’t be worthy of a direct-to-video TV movie release. In other words, the novelty of women as mob bosses is the only thing The Kitchen has going for it.
The movie is also being marketed as some sort of feminist rally to the cause, but I’m wondering if depicting women behaving just as boorish, brutal and nasty as the men who have oppressed them is going to help the cause for equality. The shifting tones and moral ambiguity of The Kitchen also doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a very boring film.
The Kitchen is based on a graphic novel (A.K.A. comic book), which actually makes sense if you were to present the story as some sort of dark alternative reality fantasy. As is, The Kitchen doesn’t have much going for it, even with the talents of McCarthy, Haddish, and Moss.
"The Kitchen" Trailer