It’s said that behind every good man is a good woman … but that can go for the flip side of that coin, too.
Based on a comic-book series, “The Kitchen” is a cousin of such other movies as “Widows” and even the television series “Good Girls” to a degree, since it dispatches several ladies to continue the misdeeds of the men in their lives. The film presents a really interesting starring trio in Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss – and even though two of those names usually connote humor, this isn’t a comedy, as its considerable violence and generally rough tenor confirm.
After their mobster spouses go to jail for their activities in 1970s-era Hell’s Kitchen, the women elect to continue their men’s business … and quite a violent business, it is. Certain of the wives are more broken up about their mates’ three-year trip down the river than others, but they all see value for themselves in carrying on their men’s missions. However, in doing so, they risk their efforts as well as their general safety by attracting the attention of the FBI and other criminals.
“The Kitchen” marks the directing debut of Andrea Berloff, the co-writer of “Straight Outta Compton,” and she invests much of the same grittiness here. She also plays to each of her stars’ strengths, and that is no simple accomplishment, given how diverse the performers in question are.
McCarthy has come into her own as someone who can balance drama with comedy, especially with her recent Oscar nomination for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Haddish also has been making her mark at both ends of the performing spectrum, getting credit for tempering her well-known humor with nuanced acting. And thanks to both “Mad Men” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” – among other credits – Moss is renowned as one of the top actresses on television these days.
Also worth singling out in the cast of “The Kitchen” is veteran character actress Margo Martindale (“The Americans”), typically fine as another underworld figure who shouldn’t be messed with. The notion of women supporting women doesn’t necessarily extend to her, as the picture’s central trio finds out rather quickly.
In the hands of some skilled talents, the heat gets turned up fairly high here … but if you don’t like it hot, just as the ads (and the old adage) suggest, stay out of “The Kitchen.”