New York City, 1978. Three women are the best of friends and married to gangsters. Cathy (Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) is a stay at home mother; Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) has a racist mother-in-law (Margo Martindale); and Claire (Elisabeth Moss) is regularly beaten by her bully of a husband. When their spouses are arrested by the FBI after a robbery gone bad, the ladies decide to continue their own protection racket. They have the help of a violent psychopath Domhnall Gleeson who’s taken a shine to Claire and an Italian mobster (Bill Camp) based out of Brooklyn.
Comparisons to 2018’s Windows are inevitable, given the similar themes. Both films focus on female partners left behind after their male criminal partners go away. The women of The Kitchen are then forced to take control of their own lives via illicit means. The three are generating massive amounts of cash. Though they tread on the toes of rival gangs in New York’s neighboring boroughs, their rise to the top is virtually unchallenged in their rise to the top. When their husbands are released from prison, the once close friends turn on each other, blinded by greed and power.
At first glance, The Kitchen should be a complete success. The cast is uniformly excellent–a nice mix of established stars and recognizable character actors–and the late 1970’s era New York setting show give first time director Andrea Berloff a lot to work with. However, failure to pursue a coherent story–flitting among the women as it goes–means the characters are never really developed and the story stalls. Although Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish do deliver a few nice moments, The Kitchen never develops enough of an identity to be considered more than a cliché of all the solid movies that came before it.
Personally, I was disappointed. Given the female director and female cast, I expected The Kitchen to be much better than it is. Melissa McCarthy has proven she can do drama–if you haven’t seen her 2018 Oscar nominated performance in Can You Forgive Me? It’s well worth checking out and while Tiffany Haddish is new to drama, she’s a great talent; I suspect she could pull off a dramatic performance under the right circumstances. Unfortunately, here she mostly goes for over-the-top, channeling an only slightly lesser version of a female Tony Montana.
Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Warner Bros. 1080p transfer is rather solid. Overall sharpness is good. A few brief moments of softness were noticeable during interiors, but they are very brief. The image itself is impressive and free of any print flaws. Colors are reproduced as intended and blacks are inky. Shadows offer nice delineation and low-light shots a nice level of clarity. As with most newer titles from Warner, this high definition transfer leaves little to complain about.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack adds surprising oomph to the proceedings. A dialogue heavy film, there isn’t much in the way of special effects, but the 1970’s era soundtrack that plays throughout the film, is the first thing viewers hear. Etta James’ “It’s A Man’s World,” is blasted from all channels and fills the soundfield. The limited moments of violence that do exist, create a convincing sense of place and gravity. Though not what you would call a particularly dynamic track, the mix is more than adequate for the material.
English SDH, Latin, Spanish, French and Portuguese subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Running Hell’s Kitchen (HD, 9:01) Writer/director Andrea Berloff, producer Michael De Luca, costume designer Sarah Edwards, and actors Melissa McCarthy, Brian d’Arcy James, Elisabeth Moss, Domnhall Gleeson, Tiffany Haddish, Common, James Badge Dale and others share some quick thoughts on the films source and adaptation, characters, depiction of violence, themes, visual style and more.
- Taking Over the Neighborhood (HD, 5:22) Members of the cast and crew share their experiences of shooting in NYC in a setting circa 1978.
- Deleted Scene (HD, 0:25) Only one scene, and as with most deleted content, it wouldn’t have added anything to the film.
- Digital Code
The Kitchen (2019)
Movie title: The Kitchen
Director(s): Andrea Berloff
Actor(s): Elisabeth Moss, Melissa McCarthy, Domhnall Gleeson, Tiffany Haddish , Alicia Coppola , Common
Genre: Action, Comic Book, Crime, Drama