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The Kitchen Movie Review

The Kitchen (2019) movie poster The Kitchen

Theatrical Release: August 9, 2019 / Running Time: 103 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Andrea Berloff / Writers: Andrea Berloff (screenplay); Ollie Masters, Ming Doyle (DC Vertigo comic book series)

Cast: Melissa McCarthy (Kathy Brennan), Tiffany Haddish (Ruby O'Carroll), Elisabeth Moss (Claire Walsh), Domhnall Gleeson (Gabriel O'Malley), James Badge Dale (Kevin O'Carroll), Brian d'Arcy James (Jimmy Brennan), Jeremy Bobb (Rob Walsh), Margo Martindale (Helen O'Carroll), Bill Camp (Alfonso Coretti), Common (Gary Silvers), E.J. Bonilla (Gonzalo Martinez), Myk Waterford (Little Jackie Quinn), Wayne Duvall (Larry - Kathy's Father), Pamela Dunlap (Mary - Kathy's Mother), John Sharian (Duffy), Brian Tarantina (Burns), Will Swenson (Michael Mariano), Annabella Sciorra (Maria Coretti)

 

As two of the more successful women in recent big screen comedy, it wasn't hard to foresee Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish teaming up. Harder to envision: the two are not joining forces in a buddy comedy, but a crime drama based on an obscure DC comic.
After her Oscar-nominated turn in last year's Can You Ever Forgive Me?, McCarthy gravitating to more dramatic and serious fare makes sense. Unfortunately, it's hard to take The Kitchen seriously.

The directorial debut of Andrea Berloff, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Straight Outta Compton who also adapts The Kitchen, wants to be this year's Widows, a rich and intelligent action thriller of female empowerment. Unfortunately, it's lacking in just about every area where Widows excelled.

Set in Hell's Kitchen in the late 1970s, the film centers on three women -- Kathy (McCarthy), Ruby (Haddish), and Claire (Elisabeth Moss) -- whose husbands have to serve jail time after getting busted for a convenience store robbery. The husbands are horrible white men, ranging from bad -- the undependable Jimmy (Brian James Darcy), the verbally abusive Kevin (James Badge Dale) -- to deplorable, the physically abusive Rob (Jeremy Bobb). We don't know too much about the women, but we know they deserve better than these men they're expected to bear and raise children for.

"The Kitchen" stars Elisabeth Moss, Tiffany Haddish, and Melissa McCarthy as wronged wives trying to stand up for themselves in the male-dominated world of 1970s organized crime.

While the men are in prison, the women are not satisfied by the handouts they're getting from the local Irish mob boss, a character you wouldn't believe as a background extra in a Scorsese movie. After their offer to collect protection payments from local businesses for the mob is rebuffed, the wives take matters into their own hands, visiting the businesses themselves and taking the money they get. Such transgressive behavior without any allies or meaningful connections would seem to set the women up for classic mob deaths.

Instead, one of them gets miraculously saved by Gabriel O'Malley (Domhnall Gleeson), a hoodlum back in town after two years of laying low. Gabriel teaches the women how to cut up and dispose of a body, a scene that is grisly even with the corpse largely out of sight. And soon, improbably, these three women are running things and establishing a relationship with a neighboring area's feared boss (Bill Camp).

You'd think even a crime drama with McCarthy and Haddish would be funny without even trying. But the only comedy here is how laughably bad this all is. With the exception of McCarthy, whose talents we've only scraped the surface of, the cast fails to convince and inspire. Moss is saddled with an accent that rings especially false. One gets the sense she was assigned to watch Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year and Sharon Stone in Casino. That's the only reason one can mention those movies in the same breath as this one. At least Moss is trying. Haddish seems strangely disinterested in introducing some dramatic range to her thus far narrow arsenal of sass.

Bad husbands (James Badge Dale, Jeremy Bobb, and Brian d'Arcy James) go to jail, so the women can have their day in "The Kitchen."

I doubt that any kind of acting excellence could have salvaged material this bad, but the poor performances definitely diminish whatever interest was there on the page. The miscalculation here is pretty extraordinary. It's as if someone has come away figuring out the reason why Goodfellas is so revered is because of the loud voices,
gaudy fashions, and period music. The Kitchen is flagrantly bad in that last area. It's loaded with late '70 tunes with absolutely none of the grace and care of Team Scorsese. Songs flare up and are reprised and not one of them ever adds anything to any scene, except a reminder that we're in the '70s, as if we've forgotten the costumes and hairstyles we're constantly seeing.

For a genre that usually lends to flavor and flair, The Kitchen is almost shockingly devoid of style, substance, and charm, especially when you consider that it's adapted from a visual medium. Arguably the most dependable cast member, Margo Martindale, gives probably the worst performance of her career as Ruby's mother-in-law, whose monologue about the New Testament's Joseph could very well be the cringiest attempt to channel Tarantino in the history of cinema. Perhaps the only redeeming quality of The Kitchen is that it is pretty short, ending abruptly and well before you think it will. Perhaps there was a final act that wasn't working. While it's easy to admire actors stepping outside their comfort zones and trying to unearth new shades, The Kitchen is probably the worst big studio crime drama since Gangster Squad.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: The Farewell Stuber Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
Melissa McCarthy: Can You Ever Forgive Me? St. Vincent Idenity Thief | Tiffany Haddish: Uncle Drew Keanu
Written by Andrea Berloff: Straight Outta Compton
Gangster Squad

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Reviewed August 9, 2019.



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