Review by J.T. Johnson
I am really getting tired of seeing the talented Melissa McCarthy being wasted in films like “The Kitchen”. Don’t get me wrong, “The Happytime Murders” is still at the top of the trash heap, but “The Kitchen” is nothing more than a generic and flat gangster movie that does nothing new with its unique premise. Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss join McCarthy and they too are wasted.
The movie follows three women who must make ends meet in 1970s Hell’s Kitchen after their husbands are captured and sent to prison for three years. When a local mafia man isn’t making good on the businesses he gets paid to protect, the three women decide that they’ll take over the protection racket and, subsequently, New York City. Of course, this doesn’t sit too well with anyone of the mobsters that they’re shoving to the side in order to take over.
The movie has a unique premise that could have been a good morality play. These three women do what they have to do to survive at first but soon their own quest for power becomes a problem. That would have at least been interesting, but once these women get into the life, all morality goes out of the window and we’re just supposed to cheer on their killing and lust for more power.
The problem is that none of the movie’s talking points has any impact because the scenes that are supposed to have real power behind them fall flat. It really does feel like someone watched a far superior Martin Scorsese film, waited about a week and then tried to write down what they remembered seeing. Again, one of the main good points about this movie is that McCarthy, Haddish and Moss are all equally talented and share some good chemistry with each other, but the story just keeps getting in the way of anything interesting happening.
The cinematography is another point of contention for me. It has become common practice for special-effects to be used to transform a city into another era. In other films, this is usually done pretty well, but here it felt so fake and I never felt like I was in 1970s Hell’s Kitchen.
Anyway, back to the lackluster story. There are a couple of “shocking” twists that happen along the way, but you don’t really like these characters. That means that these twists end up being wasted as well. Also, the ending itself shows that no one has really learned anything and nothing substantial has been said about anything whatsoever.
When I left the film, the best thing I could say about it was that it wasn’t the worst thing that I’ve ever seen. The problem is that it just isn’t any good and you feel no different leaving the movie than when you went in. You feel absolutely nothing.
While the movie may not be the worst thing out there, few things are more harmful to a movie than just being boring and that is one word that I can definitely use to describe “The Kitchen”. The movie wanted to be a thrilling gangster film and contain a message about female empowerment. Unfortunately, the film is no good at doing either.