“The Kitchen” is based on a 2014 DC Vertigo graphic novel. It’s directed by Oscar nominated “Straight Outta Compton” writer Andrea Berloff, in her directorial debut.
“The Kitchen” definitely feels like its source material is a comic book (and that’s not a complement). It also feels like it was made by a first-time director (not a complement, either).
Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss lead the star-studded cast. It’s 1978. Kathy, Ruby and Claire are the wives of Irish mobsters in New York City’s Hell Kitchen. When their husbands are sent to prison, the ladies take it upon themselves to start running the neighborhood protection racket. And they’re good at it. But it’s not long before they face opposition from other, traditional gangs.
Brian D’Arcy James (“Spotlight”) plays Kathy’s husband. Margo Martindale is Ruby’s stubborn mother in law. Domhnall Gleeson is Claire’s new beau. Bill Camp is a Brooklyn crime boss. Common is an NYC detective. And every single member of the ensemble gives a career-low performance. McCarthy’s persistent scowls and on-again/off-again accent are laughable. And I didn’t believe Haddish from her first minute on screen.
I liked last year’s “Widows” (though not as mush as others). However, director Steve McQueen’s female empowerment crime drama was gritty, intense and unpredictable. “The Kitchen” is none of those things.
Berloff simply doesn’t give this material a sophisticated, serious treatment. The first half is very dry and way too light. Things improve slightly in the second half, through the dialogue remains weak, the body count gets ridiculously high, and the editing is a mess.
Practically every scene in “The Kitchen” takes place in a bar, an apartment or at a wake or funeral. The three leads get an equal amount of story time, but there’s not enough substance for us to care about any of them. And a late “twist” lacks confidence and impact.
“The Kitchen” zips round and round, with maybe the most individual scenes of any film this year. But it’s never able to establish a constant, comfortable flow. This is definitely a meal I wish I could send back.