The Kitchen Isn’t The Feminist Thriller We Need

(L-R) TIFFANY HADDISH as Ruby, MELISSA McCARTHY as Kathy and ELISABETH MOSS as Claire in New Line Cinema’s mob drama “The Kitchen,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

The Kitchen is about a trio of wives who take over protecting the neighborhood while their husbands are serving time in jail.

Oscar-nominated screenwriter Andrea Berloff adapts Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle’s comic book series for the big screen.  I really wish that I could say that The Kitchen is a good film but it fails along the way.  The whole women-take-revenge plot was done so much better in Steve McQueen’s criminally underrated Widows.  Where the women in Widows focus on a heist, the women of this film protect the neighborhood in Hell’s Kitchen.  The fact that the film isn’t better is a true shame because there are so few female-driven mob films.  That said, I do give Berloff the credit for shepherding the project.

The Irish mafia runs Hell’s Kitchen, running the course of 20 blocks between 8th Avenue and the Hudson.  They offer protection in exchange for money.  The film starts when a trio of men, Jimmy (Brian d’Arcy James), Kevin (James Badge Dale), and Rob (Jeremy Bobb) are taking out a hit only to get caught by the FBI.  While the husbands sit in jail, the Irish mafia leave their wives out to dry.  No money for food or rent is obviously going to be terrible business.  Meanwhile, Kathy Brennan (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby O’Carroll (Tiffany Haddish), and Claire Walsh (Elisabeth Moss) decide to take over the neighborhood.  They get some help from a hitman, Gabriel O’Malley (Domhnall Gleeson).  It is not a surprise to say that things get very bloody.  Thankfully, the film doesn’t let us see the worst of the violent images but there may be a cringe-inducing moment or two.

While the women take to the streets and bring their own version of change, some of the old guard refuse to let go.  One of them in particular is Ruby’s mother-in-law, Helen O’Carroll (Margo Martindale).  You can always count on her to be rude to Ruby while remaining ever so loyal to Kevin.

One of the few positives of The Kitchen is that viewers to see dramatic turns by McCarthy and Haddish.  It’s really great to see these two play against type.  Moss certainly gets a few shining moments of her own, too.  She’s a talented actress so her performance should come as no surprise.  Margo Martindale is so good in the role of Ruby’s very unlikable mother-in-law.  A few good performances, however, are not enough to save this film.  Not when the criminally underrated (and I won’t stop stressing this) Widows did a similar–although not entirely the same–thing a few months prior and died a slow death at the box office.

Despite the trio of women kicking ass, The Kitchen simply never becomes the feminist thriller that we need it to be.

CAST:  Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Domhnall Gleeson, James Badge Dale, Brian d’Arcy James, with Margo Martindale, Common, and Bill Camp

Warner Bros. Pictures opens The Kitchen in theaters on August 9, 2019. Grade: 2.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.