Leading up to the release of “The Kitchen,” you may have noticed advertising for the movie is borderline non-existent.
That’s weird, since its stars are two bankable comic actors (Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish) and an Emmy winner (Elisabeth Moss) who are supported by a killer set of character performers like Margo Martindale and Common.
There’s a reason this is getting buried. It’s a complete waste of 102 minutes, leaving everyone stranded and seemingly exhausted in this choppy, garbled mob movie.
Written and directed by Andrea Barloff (“Straight Outta Compton”) and adapted from a DC Vertigo comic, “The Kitchen” follows three women in Hell’s Kitchen who are forced into starting their own version of the mafia after their gangster husbands are arrested while committing a convenience store robbery.
Each woman is an archetype: Kathy Brennan (McCarthy) is a sullen housewife trying to raise her kids. Ruby O’Carroll (Haddish) is the lone black woman in the Irish neighborhood. Claire Walsh (Moss) is a doormat, meant to be used and abused until she can’t take it anymore.
Strapped for cash, they strap themselves with pistols and offer local business owners protection from the Irish gangsters currently controlling the territory. When they start to make money hand over fist, other mobsters want a piece of the action.
“The Kitchen” shares a lot of the same DNA as the far-superior 2018 film “Widows.” It was also about formerly downtrodden women discovering they didn’t need a man for protection and self sufficiency, even if that meant robbing others. It even shared the same editor, Christopher Tellefsen.
While “Widows” was not without its problems, it had a stellar cast and a locked-in point of view. “The Kitchen” saddles comedic actors like Haddish and McCarthy with so much dramatic heavy lifting, you can see them buckling under pressure. Meanwhile, Moss, the strongest actor of the three, is shoehorned into another plot about abuse and rape.
While the leads brim with charisma on other projects like “Mad Men” and “Girl’s Trip,” “The Kitchen” strips them of any emotion and chemistry, as they’re left to recite boilerplate dialogue with the emotion of a first dress rehearsal. With constant furrowed brows and hangdog expressions on their faces, you sense their exhaustion the moment they appear on screen.
The movie doesn’t do itself any favors with its presentation. Its hyperactive editing has it jumping from place to place constantly, rarely letting a scene hang around longer than five minutes.
In doing that, it introduces new characters at each location. Sometimes, characters will pop up with the main cast mentioning their full names like they were a big part of a different cut of the movie that no longer exists.
Maybe they were. And it’s possible that alternate version was a less-choppy, more-honed film where the twists make sense, the characters’ motivations are clearly defined and we’re taken on a journey of female empowerment that’s thrilling and pays off.
That is not this cut. This is as drab and lifeless as its gray-and-red color palette. While it’s important that we get more movies written, directed and starring women, there’s no reason to support messes like this to see that happen. Let this be buried along with other late-summer flops so everyone involved can go on and do something better.
— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live