The Kitchen review by Susan Granger (Member of New York Film Critics Online, Alliance of Women Film Journalists) -

Manhattan’s gritty, garbage-strewn Hell’s Kitchen in the late 1970s is the setting for Andrea Berloff’s R-rated crime caper, based on DC Vertigo graphic novels by Ollie Masters and illustrated by Ming Doyle.

When three Irish-American thugs (Brian d’Arcy James, Kevin O’Carroll, Jeremy Bobb) are arrested after a botched liquor store robbery and sent to prison for three years, their wives – after receiving a meager payout from misogynistic Little Jackie (Myt Watford) – are left to survive on their own.

Granddaughter of an Irish Mafia boss, Kathy Brennan (Melissa McCarthy) has two kids to support. So – out of desperation – she convinces resentful Ruby O’Carroll (Tiffany Haddish) and battered Claire Walsh (Elisabeth Moss) that they can not only do what their husbands did – but so much better!

“We’re all done being knocked around,” she announces, assuming leadership of the previously oppressed-now swaggering trio.

Without much ado, the wives ruthlessly usurp the local ‘protection’ racket, even expanding into Brooklyn. And Claire finds love with Gabriel (Domhnall Gleeson) a trigger-happy, sociopathic Vietnam vet, who carefully teaches her how to carve up a corpse for easy disposal in the Hudson River.

Predictably, the immediate success of their brazen racketeering operation doesn’t sits well with the Irish mob, particularly Ruby’s snarling, racist mother-in-law (Margo Martindale), and two local FBI agents (Common, E.J. Bonilla). And when they broker a big union construction contract with the diamond-dealing Hasidic community, harassment quickly turns to homicide.

For writer/director Andrea Berloff, who wrote “World Trade Center” and co-wrote “Straight Outta Compton,” this is her directing debut – and her inexperience shows in the humorless, thinly drawn characters, absurdly discordant tone and chaotic transitions.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Kitchen” is a frustrating 4. Steve McQueen’s “Widows” (2018) chronicles a similar saga of female exploitation and empowerment far better.

The Kitchen
Director : Andrea Berloff
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Domhnall Gleeson

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