Health Code Violations: Our Review of ‘The Kitchen’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - August 08, 2019
Health Code Violations: Our Review of ‘The Kitchen’

Even the best of us step in ‘**it’ once in awhile…

The Kitchen which is based on the Vertigo comic series from DC Entertainment is just a tonal mess of a film that never owns the violence around it and the subsequent consequences.  While it does have a solid message of female empowerment and fighting for what is rightfully theirs, it’s filled with clunky dialogue, over stylized production design and direction that keeps the cast at a point that they don’t know if they’re supposed to be funny or terrifying and is the equivalent of some very talented people all making a mistake in stereo as this undoubtedly read better then it plays on the screen.

Three 1978 Hell’s Kitchen housewives’ mobster husbands are sent to prison by the FBI. Left with little but a sharp ax to grind, the ladies (Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Moss and Tiffany Haddish) take the Irish mafia’s matters into their own hands—proving unexpectedly adept at everything from running the rackets to taking out the competition.

While not without some chops as a screenwriter, first time director Andrea Berloff (who also adapted the comic) has some meat on the bones with a strong message about women being just as capable at all things as men are (granted in a very dark way) but the entire thing never has any genuine gravitas or drama to it all as the violence in it always feels very gratuitous and rarely has emotional impact while the three leads are all seemingly never quite sure how to play it all from beginning to end.  Top that all off with some overly stylized production design, a rapid fire soundtrack that must have cost a fortune but never drives the narrative along and you’ve got an uneven mess of a film.

Sure the gender politics are compelling, but when you wrap it up in this incoherent package you just end up too confused to care about any of it.  This is Berloff’s very first effort in the director’s chair for ANYTHING and it shows because you can just tell that the person in charge of this didn’t have a clue what they were doing.

It’s rare that you have to give a mulligan to the likes of Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elizabeth Moss, Domnhall Gleeson, Common, James Badge Dale, Margo Martindale, Bill Camp, Bryan D’Arcy James among others because you’ve just got to believe that people said yes to this without reading it first.

There’s no doubt that the premise is pretty cool, but everyone from top to bottom in this affair feels utterly directionless and completely lost inside the narrative.  It’s like watching someone clean up a mess…but the mess only gets worse…and worse…and worse until that baby diaper accident just got tossed in the air and hit the ceiling fan and flew EVERYWHERE.

I’m not angry or even upset after seeing The Kitchen because quite frankly I’m actually really embarrassed for everyone involved.  It’s just a half-baked mess with no pacing, rhythm or desire to find anything remotely like a workable story.  I can only hope that this doesn’t get held up as an example of female filmmakers because I could list a myriad of writer/directors who wouldn’t have as egregiously wasted the talent at their disposal, as we saw here.   This is the visual equivalent of group of people stepping in a pile of shit…then trying to pretend that they don’t where that foul stink came from.  The Kitchen is a listless bore and on track for being one of the worst films of the calendar year.

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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