In Brief: You’ll find the cooking in someone else’s kitchen much more interesting.
I rarely know anything about movies before I screen them. Some critics want to know everything, I do not. I prefer to not have any influences before seeing a film. With The Kitchen I’d caught snippets of the trailer but not enough to know it was produced by DC Comics and based on a series of comic books.
It was a little bit of a surprise.
The kitchen is New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen and the film is set in 1978. Three husbands of three women are part of an organized crime gang. They go out and commit a crime, try to beat up the cops that catch them, get caught and are sentenced to three-years in jail.
With their husbands gone up river, the women have no money and end up at the mercy of the gang’s not very sympathetic leader. He does not want to help them at all. So they decide to take over. The women start collecting the shakedown pay he has been getting from businesses and individuals, and keep it for themselves.
At that point, the movie loses all credibility. But I now know it’s based on a DC comic so credibility is not all that necessary.
Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss play the three women. One, Moss’ Claire learns to enjoy killing and doing away with vicious men. Haddish’s Ruby is all business and uncompromising. She’s a black woman married to an Irish thug. Not a popular thing for him to do and with him in jail, she’s at the mercy of her very nasty and somewhat racist mother-in-law.
McCarthy’s Kathy is a homemaker, a mom, and is not just into grabbing piles of cash. She just wants to survive and do good for the community.
How they end up controlling their — for lack of a better word — “empire” is thrown at you in clumps. They go from helpless to running things too quickly and nothing that happens in the film is all that believable. In real life about five-minutes after the gang leader learned of their theft of his money, their bodies would have been found floating in the Hudson River.
Then — again — I remind myself this is a DC project and DC projects are — being nice here — not usually all that good. This one is no exception. Part of the problem is writer/director Andrea Berloff who cowrote Straight Outta Compton.
The Oscar nomination for Compton’s screenplay says she obviously has some writing talent. Berloff — however — is not a very good director. She does a great job of casting but her character development and how those characters are used, isn’t that strong.
Then the asterisk pops into my head again. Gary, this is based on a series of DC comic books. Lighten up.
The three ladies and their supporting actors are superb. Who doesn’t love McCarthy? When she’s not doing stupid comedy, McCarthy shows exceptional dramatic chops and does so here. Haddish — who also has mostly done comedy — is quite good in a hardcore dramatic role. And that’s hardcore with a capital H.
But other than Moss’ Claire and her assassin boyfriend — done wonderfully by Star Wars’ Domhnall Gleeson — Berloff’s characters have the two dimensional characteristics of those you’d see on the pages of a comic book. The two actors take full advantage and have fun with them. The other actors do the best they can with what they have.
That said, when you don’t have much to play with, it’s hard to play.
Here’s what it comes down to. Some things cooked in The Kitchen are quite tasty. Cook it a little better and this might have been an A+ movie. However, some things on the menu are like rubbery chicken or undercooked fish. They look good but once served, and after a bite or two, you return the item to the kitchen and order something else.
Director: Andrea Berloff
Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss, Tiffany Haddish, Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Camp, Common, Margo Martindale, James Dale Badge, Jeremy Bobb
Click here for theaters and show times.
The Kitchen is based on a series of DC comic books. The good thing you can say is this movie is consistent with other DC projects. The bad news is DC comic movies have just never been all that good. The Kitchen gets a Friday Flicks with Gary a thumbs down 2 out of 5 on the 0 to 5 scale.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.