November 4, 2019  (Web Review)

The Kitchen

Warner, 102 min., R, DVD: $28.99, Blu-ray: $35.99, Nov. 5

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

Manhattan’s gritty, garbage-strewn Hell’s Kitchen in the late 1970s is the setting for Andrea Berloff’s frustrating crime caper, based on DC Vertigo graphic novels by Ollie Master and illustrator Ming Doyle. When three Irish-American thugs (Brian d’Arcy James, James Badge Dale, Jeremy Bobb) are arrested after a botched liquor store robbery and sent to prison for three years, their wives—after receiving a meager payout from misogynistic Little Jackie (Myk Watford)—are left to survive on their own. The granddaughter of an Irish Mafia boss, Kathy Brennan (Melissa McCarthy) has two kids to support. So out of desperation she convinces resentful Ruby O’Carroll (Tiffany Haddish) and battered Claire Walsh (Elisabeth Moss) that they can not only do what their husbands did, but do it better! “I think we’re all done being fucking knocked around,” Ruby announces, and without much ado, the wives ruthlessly usurp the local protection racket, even expanding into Brooklyn. And Claire finds love with Gabriel (Domhnall Gleeson) a trigger-happy, sociopathic Vietnam vet, who teaches her how to carve up a corpse for easy disposal in the Hudson River. Predictably, the success of their brazen racketeering operation doesn’t sit well with the Irish mob, particularly Ruby’s snarling, racist mother-in-law (Margo Martindale) and two local FBI agents (Common, E.J. Bonilla). And when the women broker a big union construction contract with the Hasidic community, harassment turns into homicide. The Kitchen marks Berloff’s directing debut and her inexperience shows in the humorless, thinly drawn characters, absurdly discordant tone, and chaotic transitions. Steve McQueen’s Widows (2018) chronicled a similar saga of female exploitation/empowerment much better. Optional, at best. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include a “Running Hell’s Kitchen” making-of featurette (9 min.). Extras exclusive to the Blu-ray release include a “Taking Over the Neighborhood” production segment (6 min.), a deleted scene (2 min.), and a bonus digital copy of the film. Bottom line: a decent extras package for a disappointing film.] (S. Granger)