HOLLYWOOD—I wanted to go into the theater with an open mind for the crime drama “The Kitchen.” The movie appeared like a female version of a gangster flick. However, “The Kitchen” is not what you expect it to be. The narrative revolves around the Irish and Italian mob in New York in 1978. At the core, we have our protagonists, Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), a loyal life, who is not a fan of the criminal organization her husband works for; there is Ruby (Tiffany Haddish), who is married to Kevin and is constantly attempting to prove herself. Rounding out the trio is Claire (Elisabeth Moss), who is being abused by her husband Rob and constantly underestimated.
When the ladies’ husbands are busted by the FBI, the women’s lives are upended and they find themselves in a position where survival becomes grim. So what do they do? They decide to take over the reins of the criminal organization their husbands once ran. It starts off small, but grows substantially over a period of time, but not without a bit of drama along the way.
Here is the problem with “The Kitchen,” its narrative is slightly enthralling, but the character development not so much. Out of the three ladies the only one I was able to fully buy as a mobster in the making was Moss’ character. Claire is a tortured soul, and out of all the women she is the most flawed in my opinion. She has been abused, nearly raped and when she gets a taste of power it goes to her head. She is a layered character and that makes her rootable in my opinion.
On the opposite side, we have Kathy who is apprehensive about getting entangled in the Irish mob, especially considering her hubby wants to get out. I wanted more from McCarthy’s character. We know the actress has the chops to play dark, but it seems timid here. The writers didn’t really push Kathy enough for me to be engrossed in her character to the point that I was buying what they were selling.
Then you have Haddish, who is known for her comedic chops and attempts to stand out as the new head of the organization. Was it a bit of overacting for Haddish? Perhaps, or maybe it was a misfire on casting. The attempt to come across too dramatic and a semi villain didn’t fully work for me. If you’re looking for all the classic troupes of a gangster flick, “The Kitchen” doesn’t disappoint. We have bloody violence, we have characters we despise, we have tough guys who get schooled and there are plenty of double crossings, but they are not as surprising as you expect.
The movie doesn’t lack a solid supporting cast either in Domhnall Gleeson, Brian d’Arcy James, James Badge Dale, Margo Martindale, Common and Bill Camp. The problem is the chemistry does not fully mesh where it clicks on all cylinders. Moss, Haddish and McCarthy have decent chemistry, but I wanted more from the ladies. It felt like two of the three worked, where one was the odd ball out. The film is written and directed by Andrea Berloff who was responsible for sharing her writing talents on the 2015 hit “Straight Outta Compton.” However, the pacing and direction is not as unified as we want it to be.
“The Kitchen” is not perfect, it’s not horribly bad, but it’s not the gangster/mobster flick that you come to expect from the genre. Nice try, but no cigar.