The Kitchen Can Take The Heat

The adaptation of the Vertigo comic hits all the right spots for a fun crime movie.

Finding the time for a date night with my wife, working opposite schedules and with a toddler, but every now and then we manage to go out together. It had been a while since we’d gone to a movie together. Most of the movies I’ve seen in theaters the last two years are comic book movies, so I usually go by myself because she has little interest.

So when I asked her if there was a movie she wanted to see and she responded with THE KITCHEN, I chuckled, because she had no idea it was adapted from a 2014-15 DC/Vertigo miniseries from writer Ollie Masters and artist Ming Doyle. Granted, the miniseries wasn’t a huge hit, so the fact that it was a comic book adaptation at all may have gone a bit under the radar.

In fact, I was a little surprised when I heard about the film, but I was interested in seeing it because the main cast seemed like such an odd mix for a crime drama. The story follows the wives of members of the Irish mob in late-1970s Hell’s Kitchen. After their husbands get arrested doing a job, they channel their frustration with the heads of the crime family by putting themselves at the head of the table. Their decision to take the reins of the business from the men, who’ve been ignoring their responsibilities to protecting the neighborhood, puts them into conflict with the FBI, with the Italian mafia in Brooklyn and with other members of the Irish family who felt like they were displaced and disrespected.

The movie is heavy on the drama, peppered with some gunplay throughout the 102 minute runtime, so putting two women more known for their comedic roles in the leads may seem like an odd choice. Melissa McCarthy, best known for playing the heavyset friend in comedies like Bridesmaids, plays Kathy Brennan, the wife who organizes the three women and ends up becoming the face of the new organization in Hell’s Kitchen. She’s backed up by Ruby O’Carroll, played by Tiffany Haddish, a black woman who marries into the main Irish family who was never accepted by the Irish matriarch.

If there was any question that McCarthy and Haddish could handle the more serious fare, THE KITCHEN should put it to rest. Both women handle their parts beautifully, giving emotional performances that anchor the film. McCarthy, especially, proves she’s come a long way from being Lorelai’s best friend on GILMORE GIRLS.

Claire Walsh, the third member of the new triumvirate, is played by Elisabeth Moss, who feels a bit wasted in the part. Walsh, a battered wife happy that her husband is sent to prison, finds a new purpose in life as the trio’s loose cannon when she couples up with Gabriel (Domhnall Gleeson), a crazy Irish soldier who had been on the lam until hearing that Claire’s husband went to prison. While Moss’ part was vital to the story, it was the lesser of the three main roles. It would have been nice to see her have a little more to do in the film.

Overall, the film was a lot of fun, though it felt a little choppy in the beginning. The first 20 minutes or so of the film felt like an info dump that had some poor transitions, But once the story started in earnest, everything began to move much more smoothly.

THE KITCHEN is bolstered by an amazing soundtrack of late-1970s hits. The iconic music from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Heart, Kansas and others elevates the emotion of the film. The songs for this movie were used to such great effect and make every scene that much better.

While superhero movies are all the rage these days thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, THE KITCHEN shows that the medium can produce quality films without people in tights destroying buildings. It may not be a perfect film, but it’s a fun way to kill a couple of hours with an engaging story and plenty of twists.