All DC Movies should be one-shots. Imagine ditching the franchises and the tedious world-building in favor of standalone experiences that satisfy. Such is the case with The Kitchen — a contained experience free of baggage or expectation that lives somewhere in the space between comedy, action and camp crime. It isn’t Goodfellas, but really, what is?
Elisabeth Moss, Tiffany Haddish and Melissa McCarthy join forces to transport us to Hell’s Kitchen in 1978. It’s grimy and unforgiving. The kind of place old film cops and gangsters would agree is “no place for a woman.” But when their husbands, long-standing organized criminals, get pinched by the FBI, Claire (Moss), Ruby (Haddish) and Kathy (McCarthy) decide to take the the Kitchen for themselves.
Kathy has the family legacy, Ruby has the hustle and Claire, well, it turns out Claire has a bit of a talent for violence. And so it transpires that three women down on their luck women shake up the transactional nature of crime and protection in the neighborhood.
By turns darkly comic and winking, The Kitchen is persistently relevant storytelling that will speak a universal truth to women, because we all understand that most men will never understand what it is to walk down the street and not feel safe. That, no doubt, is thanks to writer-director Andrea Berloff, who adapted her picture from the Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle comic book series. Berloff knows what it is to be a woman in the world, and in a male dominated profession, and so that becomes the honesty that propels this alternate history forward.
That and some top notch contributions from the trio of women at the forefront and some delightful scene chewing from the men all around them. The Kitchen is not a prestige drama, nor does it aspire to be — it’s hard-boiled antics of the type we’ve often seen over the years, but with rather a different set of protagonists-cum-antiheroes.
The Kitchen has no super heroes, but it does have a comic book sensibility in so far that there are good guys and bad guys and it’s really very fun to watch the bad guys squirm. Everything is bold and exaggerated, but nothing is so silly that it’s not shocking when one of our heroines shoots a man point blank. And that is where The Kitchen wins. Berloff balances the comedic swings and the dramatic chops of her cast to create a world that’s an awful lot like ours, if only the baddies were a little more transparent.
If Wonder Woman made female viewers feel like they could run out and punch a bunch of Nazis in squarely in the face, The Kitchen will assure them that they too can run a crime syndicate, and run it damn well. Happily, The Kitchen isn’t in the business of pulling punches, so it also reminds us of the inevitable ends that come with such means.
Director: Andrea Berloff
Writer: Andrea Berloff (screenplay), Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle (based on the comic book series by)
Runtime: 1h 42mins
Release Date: August 9, 2019
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
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