Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Kitchen – female Irish mobsters pack heat and show the men how things should be run (from Friday 20 September)

For the first ten minutes The Kitchen felt like it would be a remake of Widows. But these three women are not taking over a heist from their dead partners. It’s 1978 and when three Irish monsters are arrested, tried and imprisoned, their wives need to make ends meet and set about delivering a better quality of service to the community from which they collect protection money.

If the abusive, bulling, wife-beating opening scenes aren’t sufficient, the soundtrack of “This is a man's world … but it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl” still ringing in your ears is another reminder of the film’s premise. Each woman carries a different demon on their shoulder, and each is looking for a different outcome. But together they seem to form a formidable team.

Yet, unlike Widows, there’s little to like or warm to about these characters. Other than your relief that their husbands are behind bars, they offer few opportunities for empathy as they step into their husbands’ threatening shoes.
“I want you to teach me how to do it”

Elisabeth Moss produces a mesmerising performance as Claire, a battered wife who will no longer cower to any man. She shimmers on-screen as her character gets her hands dirty with “the noisy stuff” – Zoey Bartlet goes full Frank Underwood! – and glows as a seemingly decent man (Domhnall Gleeson) steps into her life to be by her side without wanting to take it over.

Marrying into the mob against some people’s wishes, Ruby knows about being an outsider. Tiffany Haddish plays the character that is most remote and ambiguous, and least well developed. While Ruby ends up as the one to do a deal with the Brooklyn mafia, whose boss Alfonso Coretti (Bill Camp) can’t avoid delivering the awful line: “If we have a dick-measuring contest, I’m going to win”. An FBI subplot is set up only to be dismissed with one sultry scene. Ruby’s mother-in-law (Margo Martindale) is scary but dispatchable like everyone else who gets in the new gang’s way.
“You’re way worse than we were”
As Kathy Brennan, Melissa McCarthy shifts from being a protective mother to a manipulative mobster who prefers securing jobs for the local community over cleaning up the streets – and her gang – from the fellow lowlifes she disagrees with. The death toll mounts up at an alarming rate. (Watch out for Kathy’s father making a very unbelievable U-turn.)

Adapted by writer/director Andrea Berloff from the eponymous DC Vertico comic book story, The Kitchen is a tale that only just deserves to be told. Elisabeth Moss is what saves it: her cold and calculating performance is worth the ticket price alone.

The Kitchen is released in UK and Irish cinemas from Friday 20 September.

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