The Kitchen is the story of Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby (Tiffany Haddish), and Claire (Elisabeth Moss), who are share one thing in common: their husbands are deep members of the Irish mob in Hell’s Kitchen, New York during the late 1970s. After a robbery goes bad, the three husbands become incarcerated leaving the women somewhat stranded to fend for themselves as unemployment in the city skyrockets. To survive, the wives band together by taking matters into their own hands and running mob operations independently.
Nearly everything works in The Kitchen, but especially the tonal balance and the characters. Make no mistake—writer and director Andrea Berloff is a true cinematic talent. Fresh off an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay (Straight Outta Compton), Berloff assembles a truely riveting film in The Kitchen that combines suspense, intrigue, and entertainment masterfully. Berloff leverages intensity as her main ingredient but knows exactly where the limits are and when to relax with light comic relief. The Kitchen will have audiences invested from the first scene, with blood pressures delightfully rising slowly until the credits roll.
One of the main reasons that The Kitchen works so smoothly is Berloff’s use of talent. McCarthy has proven herself in comedy (Bridesmaids, Spy) and drama (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), but here she gets to flex both muscles in what be her best performance yet. Next is Haddish who here steps way out of her typical genre, rechanneling her usual comedic energy into ferocity. It’s incredibly effective, if not terrifying. And while Moss has proven time and again how to play the woman you should never underestimate (The Handmaid’s Tale), this time around she gets to be a little bit more quirky and playful (sometimes disturbingly so). It applies particularly to the three leading women, but it should be noted that every character in The Kitchen feels completely realized and deep.
If you are not a fan of gratuitous violence, strong language, or mobster movies, The Kitchen may not be for you. Berloff doesn’t quite go super gory, but there are lots of murders and the blood that accompanies them. Worse horrors are implied and even though they aren’t explicitly shown, imaginations are likely to light up. The Kitchen is not meant for the squeamish.
The Kitchen is a fantastic rollercoaster of a movie as it blends thrills with entertainment. With an exceptional script and exquisite direction, Berloff has crafted a mob movie that stands up to any of the all-time greats, and possibly surpasses them. If you are a fan of the genre, this is required viewing.
Recommended if you enjoyed: The Departed, Black Mass, Goodfellas
FINAL GRADE: A
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