Complete A-Z list

Kitchen, The


Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Domnhall Gleeson, Brian D'Arcy James, Common, Bill Camp, Annabella Sciorra, James Badge Dale, Jeremy Bobb, Margo Martindale, Wayne Duvall

Director: Andrea Berloff

With McCarthy and Haddish heading the cast, you might be expecting a rowdy comedy about life behind the scenes at a New York restaurant. No such luck. What we get instead is a poor man's version of Lynda La Plante and Steve McQueen's Widows. Perhaps in view of the comedic background of the stars, writer-director Berloff was reluctant to go too dark.

In reality, the 'kitchen' of the title is Hell's Kitchen, a poor quarter of New York in 1987, where three small-time Irish-American criminals (James, Dale and Bobb), robbing a convenience store, are caught in the act by police headed by Silvers (Common) and sent down for three years.

All three men, one abusive, another domineering and the third passive, have wives (McCarthy, Haddish, Moss), who are now forced to become breadwinners. McCarthy has two kids, while neither Haddish nor Moss, though childless, seem to have jobs. After fruitless attempts to find work, they decide to take over the local protection racket run by their husbands' employer Little Jackie (Myk Watford). Yes, they do.

And, no, none of this is anywhere near as convincing as something similarly-themed you'd see on UK TV. No way would these three set up shop in this manner, let alone strike an alliance with the nearby Brooklyn crime boss (a benevolent Camp) At least they do have a deadly hitman (Gleeson, unrecognisable as usual), although his sudden appearance in the plot is never satisfactorily explained.

At any rate, he finds a kindred satanic spirit in Moss (acting her socks off as usual) and they form the deadliest duo since Bonnie and Clyde.

Although the roles seem tailored to the three leads, their characters are never as sympathetic as you feel was intended, not helped by being weighed down with cliched dialogue throughout. That said, the film is smoothly made with professional polish and passes the time painlessly enough.

David Quinlan

USA 2019. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour by deluxe.
101 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 16 Sep 2019