Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss struggle to rise above a cartoonish and shoddily constructed crime drama
The Kitchen, a late summer, female-led adaptation of a little-known DC comic, is the worst kind of bad movie.
Thats because it has all the ingredients of a good movie, from a juicy premise to a stellar cast, yet its assembled with such staggering incompetency that from the very first scene it boils over into one star territory, all promise evaporating from the screen. The boredom and confusion that then follows is backgrounded by an almost angry frustration that someone could get something so potentially thrilling so very, very wrong.
That someone would seem to be Andrea Berloff, the Oscar-nominated co-writer of Straight Outta Compton, who here makes her directorial debut while also singlehandedly writing the script. Its refreshing to see a woman given the reins of a female-fronted DC project, given how it remains such a boys club but its then disheartening to see what an utter mess she makes of it, both with her risible dialogue and scrappy direction. She throws us into 70s New York with a swirling nighttime shot of the city and Its a Mans Mans Mans World clunkily explaining the overarching theme of the movie. In Hells Kitchen at the time, crime is a mans business but when their gangster husbands get thrown in jail, its up to the wives to step in. Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) and Claire (Elisabeth Moss) arent natural criminals but financial circumstances dictate that they need to do something and it doesnt take long for them to realise theyre a better fit than they might have imagined.
There are inevitable echoes of Steve McQueens electric thriller Widows, given the setup, and its a comparison which harms The Kitchen in every conceivable way. While McQueens film delivered both sharp, impactful action and believably wrought female characters, Berloffs chucks in three astonishingly underwritten women and coerces them through one confusingly plotted situation to the next. Theres a rhythm that feels off from the start, like hearing a song at the wrong speed or watching a percussion section fail to follow a beat. Scenes either end too soon or go on too long, fights are confusingly choreographed, reaction shots are strangely chosen, editing is baffling its a swirling pot of bad decisions leading to an end dish thats both undercooked and overheated. It wreaks of studio interference, a film that feels pulled apart and then haphazardly restitched in an editing suite by a committee of people desperate to get it released before swiftly moving on and all agreeing to never speak of it ever again.
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