In 1993 DC Comics opened an offshoot branch called Vertigo. It was used to publish the more graphic stories that couldn't be published under the Comics Code Authority. It allowed DC Comics to offer readers more graphic violence, nudity, drug use, and profanity. One of these stories revolved around mob wives and was called The Kitchen because the comic took place in Hell's Kitchen in the late 1970s. This week a movie of the same name and based on the comic comes to theaters. Starring Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip) and Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid's Tale), it shows you what can happen when the women take over.
Kathy (McCarthy), Ruby (Haddish) and Claire (Moss) are three Irish mob wives who lead very different lives. Kathy is a stay at home mom, while Claire is the battered wife and Ruby is the token black girl of the group whose husband dotes on his mother and is secretly having an affair. One night their husbands get caught and sent to prison for four years. Of course, The head of the mob, Little Jackie (Myk Watford; Person of Interest), tells the ladies not to worry and that he will take care of them while their men are incarcerated. However, when they each get an envelope with not enough money to survive on they decide to take matter s into their own hands.
With Kathy as the brains of the operation, Ruby the "muscle" and Claire the meek one who does what she's told, they take over the Irish's Mob's "collection" Business in Hell's kitchen essentially forcing Jackie and the men who work for him out. They make friends with the Union workers, payoff the right people and keep almost everyone in the neighborhood happy and safe - at lest from everyone but them. However, when their husbands get released after sixteen months, things begin to unravel and their empire and their lives are threatened.
McCarthy once again takes on a serious role and does well with it. Kathy has grit and teeth while still showing sensitivity and McCarthy portrays her as such. While her performance isn't as good as her Lee Israel character that earned her an Oscar nomination, it is solid nonetheless. Haddish is good as well in this non-comedic change for her but there were still times I was seeing Haddish and not a character named Ruby. Moss matches the other two ladies while making the biggest transformation from the beginning of the film to the end. Dom hall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) outshines them all, however, with the most complex and interesting character.
Unfortunately, first-time feature director, Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton) doesn't know what to do with either these talented actors nor the script that she wrote. The pacing loses steam halfway through and we continually watch much the same scenes over and over again. While this could have been a female Goodfellas it sadly doesn't pack the same punch and doesn't have enough to keep the audience engaged. However, the costume and set designs are great and the cinematography is solid.
The concept is interesting though I wonder how realistic it would have been in the mob underworld of 1978. Yes, the ladies eventually end up with "hits" put out on each of them but one would think it would have happened much sooner in the timeline than it actually did. At least the film didn't end with a happy ending and a nice, neat bow on top.
I imagine the movie would have been significantly different in more experienced hands but at least the cast offers some decent performances despite a weak script and mediocre execution (no pun intended). At least Berloff didn't shy away from outright violence and some of the twists and turns make the story more interesting.