By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) — What’s cooking in “The Kitchen” (Warner Bros.)? A morally muddled stew of fatal feminism.
Meet put-upon mob wives Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) and Claire (Elisabeth Moss). The trio ekes out a marginal existence in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, circa 1978.
But, after their husbands, Jimmy (Brian D’Arcy James), Kevin (James Badge Dale) and Rob (Jeremy Bobb), are imprisoned and Little Jackie (Myk Watford), the gang leader who promised to take care of them in their spouses’ absence, reneges on his pledge, the desperate ladies take matters into their own hands.
With the help of hardened killer Gabriel (Domhnall Gleeson), they supplant Little Jackie in his role as dispenser of protection in the troubled district. Their racket becomes so profitable that they are invited into an alliance with the Brooklyn-based mafia family headed by Alfonso Coretti (Bill Camp).
Though well-acted, writer-director Andrea Berloff’s gritty drama, adapted from a series of comic books by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle, presents criminal mayhem as the vehicle by which its main characters emancipate themselves from male oppression.
Claire, for instance, not only gets her revenge on physically abusive Rob, once he’s released, but also on a drug addict who attacked her while she was volunteering at a Catholic parish-run soup kitchen. She needed a few stitches after the assault; she puts him beyond medical assistance.
Claire also takes up with Gabriel while Rob is still in the slammer. Berloff’s script presents their adultery as true love and as a source of well-deserved happiness for Claire.
Ruby also gets to settle a score, in her case with her mother-in-law from hell, Helen (Margo Martindale). Kathy, meanwhile, tries to justify her wrongdoing by using her ill-gotten gains to help various Hell’s Kitchen unfortunates, thereby muddying the ethical waters still more.
With so many bodies to dispose of, Gabriel gives a tutorial in how to carve up a corpse. It’s a harrowing lesson wise moviegoers will opt to skip.
The film contains misguided values, much gory violence, including murderous vengeance, semi-graphic adulterous sexual activity, blasphemous dialogue and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.