The Kitchen

Grade: B

Most mob movies feature men as the leading “wiseguys.” When I hear the word “mob” or “gangster,” actors from the mob classic “Goodfellas,” come to mind. The images of Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pesci rush to memory. Every mob role is usually written to sound tough and act like a boss. Given De Niro’s acting pedigree, it is easy to buy into him playing such a role. He has been in other mob movies like “The Godfather,” “Casino,” and “The Family,” to name a few. Most would be quick to call it type casting, but I believe those “tough guy” types of roles are perfectly suited for a guy like De Niro. One look at the guy, if you did not know he was an actor, you would probably think you’re about to get rubbed out. The point is, for years men have dominated the gangster role in Hollywood and in Andrea Berloff’s directing debut “The Kitchen,” the leading ladies take a feminist approach to the mob lifestyle. 

In “The Kitchen,” Irish Mob wives Kathy Brennan (played by Melissa McCarthy), Ruby O’Carroll (played by Tiffany Haddish), and Claire Walsh (played by Elisabeth Moss) decide to take over the “family business” within Hell’s Kitchen in 1978 while their respective husbands are incarcerated. Easily written off by the people of Hell’s Kitchen because they are women, the three wives decide to shake up the mob and do things their way. Naturally, the Italian mob gets word of the ladies’ new business and suddenly a battle for power within New York is on. The hour and forty two minute crime drama is worth your attention. 

I must admit I was a bit skeptical about this movie with two (mostly) comedians leading the way in a mob crime drama. To me, the casting did not fit. After seeing the movie, I must say I was wrong. While I knew Elisabeth Moss would be right at home in a drama of this sort, I was really iffy about Tiffany Haddish. Haddish along with McCarthy proved me wrong. All three of the leading ladies did a fantastic job acting and were a perfect fit for the compelling story “The Kitchen” delivers to the audience. The two comedians checked their comedy acts at the door and both women delivered quite the engaging performance. There was some comic relief in the movie but it did not come from Haddish or McCarthy. Moss, Haddish, and McCarthy had great chemistry together and all of their roles were really believable. Not to give any spoilers away, but I can definitely see more female led mobster movies being made in the future. 

In today’s world, feminism is a hot topic and “The Kitchen” does cook up the message for female equality and there is nothing wrong with that. Women are just as deserving as men in any facet of life. It is refreshing to see more strong female lead roles being created in Hollywood each day. 

“The Kitchen” is highly entertaining because of its tight script and its look. It felt authentic. I was not alive in 1978 or in Hell’s Kitchen, but from the look of other movies and shows taking place in that time period, the filmmakers nailed it. Hell’s Kitchen looked dirty and gritty. “The Kitchen” did a fantastic job of depicting a crime infested area and what probably went on in the mob lifestyle at the time. 

Some of it was hard to look at if you are a bit squeamish with blood. You will see many people getting shot point blank in the head and the messy aftermath. A few guys end up swimming with the fishes and one unfortunate character gets chopped up. It is definitely not a pretty looking movie yet, that’s the way things were back then I suppose. Despite a fictitious storyline, I am sure a good amount of the story took place or maybe even continues to happen to this day? Scary thought.

One other nice touch to the movie was the soundtrack. I am a huge Fleetwood Mac fan and the movie does contain “The Chain” and “Gold Dust Woman” in a few scenes. It helped me enjoy the movie just a bit more than I already was. 

“The Kitchen” is not on the level of classic mob movies like “The Godfather” or “Goodfellas,” but if you are into mob movies and welcome a few female leads you will still enjoy it. It is not something that has to be seen in a theater but it would make for a fun night out with friends!

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