The Kitchen - Review
by Callum Patterson
It’s a real shame to come across a movie you want to be good but just ends up disappointing you. This cliched and undercooked crime drama set in the late 70’s New York gang culture is adapted from an acclaimed DC comics series, starring Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss as a trio of mob wives whose husbands get locked up for four years.
Facing minimal support from the Irish mob for whom their husbands worked, the three of them take it upon themselves to go behind the gangsters’ back by picking up their slack in protecting local stores (and getting protection money in the process) to help keep local prostitutes safe. Soon it’s not long before they catch the attention of their former associates in the Irish mob, as well as of the competing Italian Mafia and even the FBI.
With this set up it’s not hard to see that this as another story of women doing what’s necessary to take money and power in a patriarchal society. This story has proved compelling in the perverse glee of Hustlers (2019), and the hard-edged tone of Widows (2018), the latter better demonstrating the fragile nature of a mob wife’s living situation; potentially luxurious (or at least comfortable), but easily taken away after one bad mission.
The Kitchen sadly doesn’t adequately convey that same sense of desperation, nor any true scale of adversity, opting for too fast a pace that whizzes by each adversary that comes in the way of the lead trio. Every conclusive confrontation with an antagonist conveys nothing but an anticlimactic shrug to the audience before moving onto the next one, with none of these challenges providing any tension, thrills, pathos, or even any cathartic joy for the trio’s successes throughout the film.
The cast is competent enough, with the three leads obviously providing enough star power to arouse curiosity in the movie, but they aren’t enough to save it. The three of them have had better performances in better movies, with the often-charismatic comedian Tiffany Haddish given little opportunity to deliver an excellent dramatic performance like McCarthy herself recently accomplished in Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2019). The cast, and ultimately the audience, are sorely underserved in this boilerplate crime drama.