Based on the Vertigo comic books of the same name, The Kitchen is a new crime drama from a unique female perspective. Unfortunately, the novelty of having a female-led gangster movie is pretty much all this film has to offer, as otherwise, it is a predictable exercise in trying to revitalize a worn genre with little more than a gimmick.
This movie follows three mob wives in Hell’s Kitchen in the 1970’s who take control of the mob after their husbands are sent to prison. Although you would hope that this would allow the film to take the gangster genre in new directions, writer-director Andrea Berloff’s script gets too tied up in paying homage to the crime movies of old, albeit with female protagonists. Because the movie follows the formula so closely, there aren’t any surprises in store, even when Berloff seems to think she has caught you off your guard.
The most interesting parts of the film are those in which we get to see the three ladies in action, ruling over their newfound crime empire. Thankfully, this isn’t relegated to a single montage, but the amount of time spent on this far more entertaining portion of the movie still feels underwhelming compared to the amount of time that was spent on building up to that point. Ultimately, the film doesn’t seem to know where its strengths lie, and that is an issue.
The character development is also problematic. Although the characters are likable enough, all of them fit their archetypes to the note. This only adds to the predictability even further. By their personalities, you can tell which characters are going to get offed, which characters are going to be involved in the big twist, and which characters are just there to be there. The movie is just so obvious that you can’t really enjoy it as you should.
It’s really a shame that the film as a whole isn’t more interesting, because it has some things to say that are actually pretty insightful. Obviously, the movie focuses on the empowerment of its female characters and the misogyny they face from the people around them, including their husbands. Although the film is set in the crime world during the 1970’s, this message still feels very relevant in this day and age.
The actors all do a very good job in their roles too. Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss look like they are having a great time playing these roles that are different than usual for them. Of course, this isn’t McCarthy’s most nuanced work, but it is the best work from Haddish yet. She really shows the potential to be successful at breaking out of her comedic schtick and becoming a serious actress. Moss gives a very fun performance as the “loose cannon” of the group and proves that she needs more work with a comedic edge.
The visuals of the movie aren’t bad either. The production design and costuming both do a very good job of transporting you into the eponymous world of crime. You can tell that Berloff has a tremendous respect for the classics of the genre because of the way in which she created the visuals. The soundtrack is also great, being one of the few things that increases the enjoyability of the film.
Andrea Berloff had some very good ideas to use in The Kitchen, and a great cast to boot. However, these things are wasted on a story that is utterly predictable and by-the-book. Maybe we’ll get the chance to see these women reunite on a better project, because there is a ton of untapped potential in play.
The Kitchen opens in theaters on August 9.