Hell’s Kitchen, New York 1978. Claire’s (Elisabeth Moss), Kathy’s (Melissa McCarthy) and Ruby’s (Tiffany Haddish) husbands have just been sent to prison for three years. Getting little help from their husbands’ crime organization, they take matters into their own hands.
Taking control of the payments for neighborhood protection, these three women suddenly find themselves with plenty of money.
However, power and greed are corrupting. As Kathy, Ruby and Claire expand their reach, the FBI and the Brooklyn crime boss take notice forcing these female entrepreneurs to make some very hard choices.
“The Kitchen” attempts to capture viewers with a women empowerment theme and graphic violence. Unfortunately, all of it falls prey to poor writing.
This clichéd predictable story paves a path of doom for those willing to jump into organized crime. Missing the grit and edge that would deepen the story and raise the stakes, this period piece instead keeps its shallow feel throughout.
Kathy is a loving wife with two kids and her husband loves her. Claire is beaten regularly and is in a loveless marriage. Ruby is treated like the hired help for her disrespectful husband and her sour mother-in-law.
One of the glaring problems with this film is the choppy predictable narrative. Once the these desperate women decide to try and take over the extortion in the neighborhood, viewers are treated to a quick montage of these women kindly discussing the fact that the shop owner will now be extorted by these kindly housewives . . . what?
Soon after, we learn that Kathy has the business sense, Ruby has the drive and hardness to be ruthless and Claire is the psychopath to intimidate – again, there is no angst or real tension in this film.
Comparing this film to last year’s hit “Widows,” we find that women characters can be well written – as strong, capable and deserving of their power and success. “Widows” wraps four desperate women into a complex story of depravation, violence and deceit. “The Kitchen” has none of this and seems like a high school production of the same film.
The writing is so bad that this film is the perfect example of “mindless violence,” violence that really doesn’t fold into a narrative, but is used to startle and frighten mindlessly. The three skilled actors are given nothing with which to work, forcing them to visibly struggle to deliver the uninventive dialogue. Haddish never finds her character’s voice. McCarthy’s character is totally forgettable and even the talented Domhnall Gleeson’s attempt to play a menacing psychopath to hazy, snooze-fest proportions. If there is any ray of sunshine in this cloudy film, it’s Elisabeth Moss’ Claire. Moss somehow manages to carve out a lovable abuse victim-turned sexy psychopath.
“The Kitchen” never gets cooking, not even a simmer as this disconnected, soulless, choppy bore offers little for audiences, but plenty of fodder for its critics.
“The Kitchen” is a movie that has no reason to exist. Based on an obscure DC comic, it is cobbled together from the scraps of other, superior films, such as “Widows” and “Gangs of New York”, at times almost feeling like parody.
Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elizabeth Moss (their characters’ names are unimportant; most viewers will refer to them by their real ones) are the wives of prominent mafia members in 1970s Hell’s Kitchen. When the men are arrested, it’s up to the women to take over their criminal empire while also dealing with bland domestic affairs.
None of the characters are interesting; all of the three leads share the same personality, and disdain for their husbands. The dialogue is cliché; there is not a single memorable line. Its setting has been done to death, present in almost every gangster film. Its pacing is bizarre; it meanders through its thin plot and ends where any other film would have started the third act.
Beyond all its other flaws, “The Kitchen” commits the biggest sin a film can make; it is boring. At no time does it make the characters or the situations they face worth caring about. This shouldn’t be particularly hard, either – women having to juggle professional and household matters is the basis of many successful films. The most noteworthy thing about it is the inclusion of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” (which plays for no discernable reason), meaning that the song has now been featured in both a Marvel and a DC film.
However, for everything wrong with it, there is one major detail I can give “The Kitchen” credit for. It is a case study in how not to make a movie. That, at least, is something to be grateful for.