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The Kitchen
★☆☆☆☆
First run Theater cinema

When their Irish Mobster husbands are sent to prison, three Hell’s Kitchen housewives begin running the rackets and taking care of business in their neighborhood. That’s the terrific premise of this mid-70s New York period fantasy, the directorial début of screenwriter Andrea Berloff (World Trade Center, Straight Outta Compton, Sleepless). Unfortunately, this ambitious picture fails on every level, most notably because of its abrasively inconsistent tone. Unsure if it’s a bloody crime drama about how power corrupts three anti-heroines and drags them down to the level of the violent men they supplant, or a work-place comedy about female empowerment where a plucky trio create superior ways of running a complex system that once relegated them to powerless positions, this film attempts the impossible task of being both. It’s “9 to 5 meets The Godfather,” a high-concept pitch that might sound good but is difficult to picture actually working on screen because this is a story about brutal gangland racketeering and murdering anyone who gets in the way—not exactly a laugh riot. 

The source material is a comic book miniseries by Ollie Masters and Ming Doylewith, and one can imagine how this story might play just fine in that stylized graphic format, where fragmented narratives are the norm and written statements by drawn characters don’t necessarily need to read like authentic dialogue. But cinematic storytelling differs wildly from comic book narratives—all current blockbuster trends notwithstanding—especially when setting a film in a realistic historical setting and centering on characters who didn’t come from another planet and haven’t been bitten by radioactive spiders. The Kitchen adds up to nothing more than a bunch of loose thematic ideas hung on two-dimensional characters embodied by presentational performances of declarative dialogue.

The three leads (Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss) have so little chemistry it’s as if they were each doing a TV series centered on their character and suddenly found themselves thrown together in this movie. Likewise, Berloff plays some of their despicable actions for broad laughs, and some as horrific, morally compromising acts that forever change their lives. It feels as if scenes from two different pictures with identical casts, sets, and visual style were randomly edited together. This schizophrenic nature permeates every aspect of The Kitchen, making it one of the most frustrating pictures in a year of deeply disappointing movies.

Twitter Capsule:
Tonally schizophrenic gangster fantasy about Hell's Kitchen housewives who take over the Irish mafia. Comic-book roots on full display: fragmented narrative, vast gaps in logic, and flat characterizations embodied by presentational performances of declarative dialogue.    
Directed by Andrea Berloff
Produced by Michael De Luca and Marcus Viscidi

Written by Andrea Berloff
Based on the comic book series by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle

With: Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Domhnall Gleeson, James Badge Dale, Brian d'Arcy James, Jeremy Bobb, Margo Martindale, Bill Camp, Common, E.J. Bonilla, Myk Watford, Wayne Duvall, Pamela Dunlap, John Sharian, Brian Tarantina, Will Swenson, and Annabella Sciorra

Cinematography: Maryse Alberti
Editing: Christopher Tellefsen
Music: Bryce Dessner

Runtime: 102 min
Release Date: 09 August 2019
Aspect Ratio: 2.39 : 1
Color