The Kitchen is directed by Andrea Berloff, and is based on the DC Vertigo comic of the same name. The film stars Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Camp, Margo Martindale, Common, and James Badge Dale.
In the late 70s in Hell’s Kitchen, three women married to mobsters are left in an awkward position when their husbands are sentenced to prison when caught in the act by the FBI. Underfunded by the rest of the Irish crime family, the trio takes matters into their own hands, bettering their community by taking the initiative where other leaders have failed, much to the dismay of the man in charge. Their efforts get results, but what will happen when the women are forced to eventually face their husbands, and will differences in leadership styles and goals threaten to dissolve the partnership?
I love period pieces, films with female leads, mob movies, and films which aren’t afraid of unflinching violence and a high body count. The Kitchen, based on the DC Vertigo comic of the same name, is all of these, and while I have no familiarity with the source material, all these elements certainly attracted me to the film. While the movie does have its share of issues which keep it from perfection, its gritty nature, period detail, sharp script, and memorable characters, scenes, and situations make it a worthwhile trip to the movies. But if you’re easily offended or squeamish, stay home!
A trio of brilliant actresses who all play their parts superbly front the film, including the always entertaining Melissa McCarthy as a family woman forced to fend for herself and her kids when her husband goes to jail, Tiffany Haddish as a woman struggling to stay afloat in trying times due to her racial differences in an Irish-dominated neighborhood, and Elisabeth Moss as a woman from an abusive relationship who finds herself infatuated with one of the gang’s enforcers who just returned to town. I love movies with believable character development, and that’s The Kitchen’s greatest strength. At the beginning, they’re meek and uncertain of their situation. Over the course of the movie’s duration, we see a believable transformation with all the events going on around them. Great supporting performances come from the likes of Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux from the newer Star Wars movies) as an Irish gangster who allies himself with the women following a long exile, Margo Martindale as the woman “pulling the strings” within the gang, and Bill Camp as a mafia boss in Brooklyn.
I also appreciated the period detail. You’ve got a dirty and gritty version of Hell’s Kitchen with sleazy people, pimps on the streets, automobiles of the era, and genuine concerns for all our characters on all sides of the conflicts. From the NYC skyline (complete with Twin Towers!) to the grimy and filthy streets where anything can happen, the film looks exactly like it should. It’s a trip back in time, which is only helped by the use of vintage-style Warner and New Line logos at the beginning of the movie. It’s a movie that’s not afraid to be bloody, gritty, violent, and leave behind a high body count. No one is safe.
The movie’s even well-written and scored. The language is harsh. The one-liners memorable. A movie with period detail this well needs dialogue and music which suit it equally well, and a soundtrack covering wide and diverse musical genres of the period speaks for itself, featuring everything from Montrose to Etta James! The trip back in time works in many ways.
Unfortunately, the movie isn’t quite perfect. A plot twist late in the film feels shoe-horned in rather abruptly, and ultimately doesn’t amount to much. Certain characters and plot elements are (pardon the phrase) criminally underused, including Brooklyn mobsters and FBI personnel. The biggest issue is the film ends in a rather abrupt and strange place, just as it seemed to be setting up something big for our characters (setup for a sequel, perhaps?) Still, the good outweighs the bad.
The Kitchen is a solid crime drama with a great female-fronted trio and plenty of period detail and solid development for its leads. If you’re looking for a solid way to kill two hours at the movies, it’s a worthwhile film experience. Just don’t go if you’re easily offended or squeamish.
Rating: Three stars out of four.
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