There are some movies that on paper, look like they might be pretty good. “The Kitchen” certainly was one, with a pretty good cast and a writer looking to make a debut in a classic genre. But when the movie is put to screen, one sees that the positive appearance was just a mirage.
“The Kitchen” is set in the late 70s, taking place in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen area. The picture follows three women who are married to members of an Irish crime syndicate, including Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) and Claire (Elisabeth Moss). The flick picks up in the midst of a robbery by their husbands, which was being watched by the FBI.
As a result, the three men are sent to prison and their wives are left to fend for themselves. Having not enough to survive and getting little help from the Irish mob, they decided to go into “business” for themselves, and end up becoming powerful figures in their burrow.
“The Kitchen” is an absolute mess. Its story, for example, is a convoluted, meandering clutter of gangster movie cliches. The picture showcases the trio’s rise to power but does so in such a plodding, uninteresting way that one just gets bored with most of the process.
There were also some fairly unnecessary subplots, such as a romantic relationship between Claire and a mob enforcer, and a rather meaningless twist that comes in maybe the last 20 minutes that doesn’t really result in much happening.
There’s also the factor of how the mob women were portrayed. In other mob movies, such as “The Godfather” or “American Gangster,” there is a hypocritical contrast between the characters’ actions and how they act.
In many of these movies, a hypocrisy is shown, with many of these characters being gentlemen who attend church and believe in respect while also being involved with deadly crime. The point is to show just how bad these guys are.
That’s not really the case here in “The Kitchen.” The women here, especially Claire and Kathy, are always portrayed in almost a way that keeps them in somewhat of a heroic light almost. There’s even a scene where Kathy’s father is talking about how upset he is that she’s chosen a life of crime, and she rebuts him, arguing that she didn’t have many other options. The scene is set-up in a way to where the audience is supposed to side with Kathy here, a wrong step.
The characters don’t really have much in character arcs, either. For the most part, they just stay in their lanes, with Kathy being the smart, but reserved leader and Ruby acting as the cold, calculating type.
The only one that gets some kind of arc is Claire, who goes from a battered housewife to a woman ready to whip out her gun at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really go anywhere. Her growing willingness to spill blood doesn’t exactly lead to much of a climax, unfortunately.
As stated above, “The Kitchen” does at least feature a talented cast. The performers here really give the movie all they have and they elevate the material, but they can only do so much with a rather weak script.
It’s also noticeable that “The Kitchen” doesn’t really have a unique look to it. Visually it’s fairly straightforward. Another negative factor was the soundtrack added to the flick, with many old rock and pop songs over scenes which undercut several moments.
“The Kitchen” offers very little to audiences other than a good cast, which elevate things just a bit. Overall, though, the story and dialogue is rather poor. It’s a forgettable 1.5 out of 5.