The Kitchen is a crime film set in the 1960’s -1970’s about mob wives who, when their husbands go to jail, begin running their respective business across Hell’s Kitchen. This film is directed by Andrea Berloff, whoalso co-wrote 2015’s Straight Outta Compton and, in my opinion, was did a solid job. Its central focus revolves around three women formally stuck in a state of obedience who finally get to let loose, allowing Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) and Claire (Elisabeth Moss) to reshape all of Hell’s Kitchen to their liking.
I enjoyed The Kitchen’s storyline and its main cast, all of whom did a great job playing against type. In particular, Tiffany Haddish surprised me because, having only seen her in comedy films before, watching her flex her acting abilities in a serious genre film like this was impressive. I also must give credit to Berloff as both a director and screenwriter for attempting to make women look strong even in an era of shifting gender roles. Wonder Woman was a great way to show female action empowerment, but The Kitchen managed to give them power without actual powers.
Unfortunately, McCarthy, Haddish and Moss are the best thing about this movie, because everything else needed work. Every intense moment looked the same, even dark ones like a fight between Claire and her abusive husband Rob (Jeremy Bobb). I don’t understand why this film never gives its characters a chance to show that they were made for the mob business, constantly getting bullied and talked down to by male characters when all they did was use their brains. Personally, I think there should have been more scenes where they were allowed to get their hands dirty just a little.
This is also a film where a lot of funerals happen, and I just think that most of them weren’t needed. Or, at best, a few could have taken a different narrative route. The dark lighting also felt intrusive and felt unneeded in a lot of dramatic scenes, especially during one scene where the women go to meet a character named Little Jackie (Myk Watford), who’s running the mob in the absence of Ruby’s husband Kevin. It looks like something pulled from The Sopranos, which doesn’t work when you’re trying to make the Irish Mob look like a typical Italian Mafia boss. The lighting and set design just didn’t work for it.
Unfortunately, The Kitchen was just plain boring. It could have had a more interesting storyline, except I feel like producers Michael De Luca and Marcus Viscidi wanted to move safely with their script and avoid taking any risks. The ending in particular, which I won’t spoil, was also horrible, relying on snap decision double-crosses and reconciliations that made little sense. There was so much that could have been done with the writer’s premise, showcasing the women’s ambition while taking over other neighborhoods and earning respect from the community. I’m not sure why the producers and director didn’t delve further into this because it could have opened the door to a potentially intriguing sequel.
Verdict: 2 out of 5
I wish more had been done with The Kitchen to give its female characters more range and depth. Melissa McCarthy should have slapped a few people around more, Tiffany Haddish had only one little violent moment and Elisabeth Moss, despite having a crazy streak thanks to the guy she was seeing, still exhibited more of a passive side. I think if there’s an option to show that women can be strong both mentally and physically, then it should be shown. Sadly, this isn’t something that I’d recommend seeing in theaters, but it might be worth a watch On Demand.