Hell’s Kitchen hath no fury like a woman owed protection money. And with their loser husbands locked up, Irish mob wives played by Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid's Tale), and Tiffany Haddish are left with little choice but to step up and wrest control of the legendary NYC neighborhood from a fractured organization that’s gotten sloppy.
The grit feels legit here in “The Kitchen,” the big-screen adaptation of the DC comic by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle, which is appropriately set in the 1970s, an era when powerful women were breaking through the celluloid ceiling in leading roles like Gena Rowlands’ “Gloria” and Pam Grier’s “Foxy Brown.”
And while there is some requisite punching-up at the patriarchy refusing to take them seriously, director Andrea Berloff too often relies on cringe-worthy dialogue when these messages could have more effectively been demonstrated than said. For instance, after a friend prevents an assault on Moss’ character, her first reaction is to sulk, “I feel bad that I needed you to come along and save me.” Later, Moss enlists this same friend to teach her how to cut up and dispose of bodies. So if the film’s idea of progress is to say that women can be ruthless killers too, then, um... mission accomplished.
Thankfully, there’s more here. To provide for her family, McCarthy’s character makes pragmatic (and maternal) appeals to neighborhood shop-owners rather than merely muscling them. Theirs is a kinder and gentler mob, though an inevitable clash brews with Haddish who is as adept at drama here as she was at comedy in her hit “Girls Trip.”
I’m one of the few reviewers who actually liked this one — in large part, I suppose, because mob films and the revenge genre are favorites — and I easily overlooked the flaws. Does the trio have chemistry between them? No, but it’s a bold assembly of principals, especially comics playing against type, thrown together out of necessity, and it works to keep the audience just off-kilter enough to stay engaged, if not intrigued, throughout.
“Goodfellas” it ain’t, but what comes out of “The Kitchen” is scrumptious.
Rating: 3 Honks