THE KITCHEN: Andrea Berloff’s Directorial Debut is Destined to Become a Cult Classic (Blu-ray Review)

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The Kitchen arrives on Blu-ray and DVD November 5, 2019. From New Line Cinema and BRON Creative come the gritty, female-driven mob drama “The Kitchen,” written and directed by Andrea Berloff, who was nominated for an Oscar for Original Screenplay for “Straight Outta Compton.” Based on the Vertigo comic book series from DC Entertainment, the film stars Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy (“Bridesmaids,” “Tammy”), Tiffany Haddish (“Girls Trip,” “Night School”) and Elisabeth Moss (TV’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” TV’s “Mad Men”) as three 1978 Hell’s Kitchen housewives whose mobster husbands are sent to prison by the FBI.

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Between 8th Ave. and the Hudson River, the Irish mafia runs 20 blocks of a tough New York City neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen. But for mob wives Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) and Claire (Elizabeth Moss), things are about to take a dramatic and radical turn. When the FBI sends their husbands to prison, the three women take business into their own hands by running the rackets and taking out the competition.


Review:

Andrea Berloff’s directorial debut is destined to become a cult classic some day. The Kitchen may be her first film, but Berloff was nominated for an Oscar after penning Straight Outta Compton, so she’s legit and the style she utilizes while adapting The Kitchen for the bigscreen is one with lot’s of promise. It’s a period thriller set in late 70’s New York, though I will be 100% honest when I tell you that I couldn’t actually tell which era the movie was placed in solely based on trailers (didn’t read the comic either). I don’t know if that’s a negative, or if fashion has reverted back to that era in some ways, but the period in which The Kitchen takes place didn’t really matter at times. There are some instances where the decade and locations come into factor but they never have a lasting major impact on the story either and that’s a bizarre thing considering most NY films feel a little more like NY. This one doesn’t to me, even with the Scorsese soundtrack playbook being used on several occasions to “mob” this flick up a bit more.

Seeing a gangster movie from the perspective of the mob-wives essentially, is a concept I never I assumed I was missing. Probably because the best mob movies have always been doing this anyway. Goodfellas isn’t just about about Henry Hill as nearly half that film is narrated by Lorraine Bracco. Yet – we still think The Kitchen is some new “twist” on the genre. I think that’s part of our natural sexist biases when devouring entertainment in general. The Kitchen is no gimmicky film – it works because the acting is strong and the script is even better. These three leading actors are all delivering some of their best work in years, it just may come across as jarring for some people who aren’t used to seeing them work in non-comedies. I get it – but even with all these elements, the film is running a fairly standard formula that all mob movies have used in the past. What sets The Kitchen apart isn’t the gimmick – it’s the very strong talented cast and crew of superwomen taking a pulpy comic book and realizing it to its fullest potential.

Melissa McCarthy and Elisabeth Moss steal the show for me – especially Moss, whose character arc is easily the most captivating and emotional of the three. Her struggles being in an abusive relationship, eventually morph into something scarier and unexpected. I was most fascinated with her and the relationship she develops with actor Domnhall Gleeson, a mafia hitman who assists the ladies in their quest to take over their husbands’ line of work after they are arrested early on. McCarthy is a comedic movie icon, but there are NO laughs to be found in The Kitchen. She does a wonderful job making her character feel genuine and real, while Tiffany Haddish opts for a performance that I felt was a little too over-the-top. Some of her visceral reactions to things came off as silly and forced. I didn’t believe the angst that this character carried with her throughout the film and twists and turns aside, I don’t think she was as interesting as the other two and most of that blame can be placed on her performance alone. The writing was fine – the performance just wasn’t up to par with her two co-stars in my opinion.

The Kitchen is fast paced, entertaining, violent without ever being gratuitous and features some of the coolest moments of any film in 2019. It’s just uneven at times and a little jarring in how quick the ladies’ rise to mobdom occurs. It’s literally one musical montage and all of a sudden these characters go from broke sad women to cash-packing big pimping thugs in a matter of 5 minutes. I love me a good montage, but I don’t think it worked here and some of the emotional weight leaves the viewer when you rush the difficult stuff.

Special Features:

  • Running Hell’s Kitchen
  • Taking Over the Neighborhood
  • Deleted Scene

There isn’t a lot to be found here, but the making-of segments were interesting and I liked how they showcased all of the women working on this project. From not only the cast, but the crew as well. Also, lot’s of love for the Vertigo Comic as well and with that DC imprint being phased out from publication, it’s nice seeing it pop up here in several clips and pages from the series. If you saw the film in theaters, I don’t know if it’s worth grabbing the Blu-ray since features aren’t all that meaty, but I do believe this is a film that is destined to find even more love over time. It’s cool – check it out.

Rating: 3.5/5

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