Imagine my surprise when I first saw the trailer for The Kitchen. It looked pretty cool, and apparently it was originally a comic from DC’s Vertigo line. Granted, I don’t think I ever heard of the comic before. But hey, it looked cool. Three women take over the Irish mob when their husbands all go to jail. That sounds promising if nothing else.
The Feds arrest and convict three Irish mobsters out of 1970s Hell’s Kitchen. The mob itself isn’t all that big from the looks of things. Plus, they’ve been losing territory and money for a variety of reasons. Promises to keep the convicted men’s wives in good care, but that doesn’t amount to much. As such, the women decide to do things on their own. Kathy (Melissa McCarthy) actually seems to want to use the criminal origination to actually help the neighborhood. The head mobster’s wife, Ruby (Tiffany Haddish), is an outsider even more than most due to her race. And Claire (Elizabeth Moss) doesn’t miss her abusive husband at all, getting a little too good at the violent aspects of the job.
Longtime writer/producer Andrea Berloff made her directorial debut here. It kinda shows. The story isn’t particularly original. The women rise in the organization to some cliched music from the era, and because it’s the 70s, the menfolk don’t want to support them. Most of the performances are so-so. I don’t think anyone did a bad job, but it didn’t seem like the script gave them much to do. Moss maybe does a bit better than her co-leads, but she’s a much better actress than either of them. But there’s also a rather impressive supporting cast, none of whom really get much to do. I mean, this movie wasted the talent of the great Margo Martindale as Ruby’s mother-in-law.
Ultimately, I didn’t feel like this movie did anything new here. If you really want to see a story like this one, try last year’s Widows. It told the story of women more or less forced into crime after the sudden departure of their husbands much more effectively. Heck, they even told a better story of the abused wife finding her way through crime much better too. I am curious if the comic did it better, but I found the movie disappointing. 6 out of 10 unsurprising surprises.