Even in a world where last November’s outstanding (and identically-plotted) Widowsdidn’t exist, it would be nearly impossible for anyone to justify the existence of a mess like writer-director Andrea Berloff’s lame, blood-soaked The Kitchen. Based on the 2014 DC comic series (though played as a serious “based on a true story” biopic), The Kitchen is a slogging mess of empty characters, gaping plot holes, and second-rate performances (from above-average actors)—so much so that it legitimately makes you question the wisdom of New Line studio honchos. (Presumably they probably saw Berloff’s Oscar nomination for co-writing 2015’s Straight Outta Compton and just decided that was all the evidence they needed to greenlight this thing.)
The Kitchen stars Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss as Irish mob wives in late-70s New York City. When their husbands are thrown in the slammer for robbing a liquor store, the ladies decide they can fill in and run the mob themselves. Before you can blink, the trio is threatening rivals, extorting local businesses, and, in one particularly grisly scene, learning how to dismember and then dispose of a fella they just knocked off.
Had we been given any character build-up to explain how any of this would be remotely possible (much less successful), Berfloff might have been onto something. But when none of the women seems any more threatening than an arthritic doormouse, it takes suspension of disbelief to a whole new level. Sure, McCarthy and Moss are among the best in Hollywood these days (McCarthy’s work in Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Moss’ in The Handmaid’s Tale were near the top of their respective mediums last year), but Berloff really let them both down here. Her weak, scattershot script gave the actresses nothing with which to work, and poor Haddish just spends the better part of two hours looking for somewhere she can toss in a punchline or two, to no avail.
Berloff seems content to just let the idea of “women are doing it for themselves” carry the day—as if just putting actresses in serious, domineering roles in a “female empowerment” movie is enough. It’s not. A convincing story and a somewhat realistic plot are just as important as simply saying, “Hey! This is a movie for all the women!” I’d argue, in fact, that Berloff did more to harm the concept than help it.
To top it all off, this nonsensical bloodbath is set to the laziest 70s soundtrack ever assembled, including “The Chain”, “Barracuda”, “Carry On Wayward Son”, and “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”… because, of course. It’s easy to imagine that everyone had their hearts in the right place on the film, but it’s obvious that it’s just as important to have a good head on your shoulders, too (as opposed to somewhere else). Being able to stand the heat isn’t even an issue here—just get out of this Kitchen.