Most of the year’s biggest superhero movies have come and gone, but comic book storytelling isn’t limited to crime-fighters in capes. There all kind of stories told in the panels and pages of comics, and one of them is coming to life on the big screen this weekend. The Kitchen, based on the DC/Vertigo graphic novel written by Ollie Masters and illustrated by Ming Doyle, tells the story of three mob wives who take over their husbands’ business in Hell’s Kitchen when they are sent to prison.
Andrea Berloff, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Straight Outta Compton, makes her directorial debut for the R-rated feature film adaptation of The Kitchen, starring acclaimed actresses Elisabeth Moss, Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish. Reviews are now out for the film (as are an infinite amount of cooking puns), so how is it and does it live up to its source material? CinemaBlend’s own Eric Eisenberg appreciated the concept, but ultimately found the execution uninspired. In his review, he gave the film 2.5 stars out of 5 and said:
It certainly has a smart central premise, and its cast delivers, however, it also suffers from a tepid plot that offers no real surprises
As you would expect, Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss bring it and are highlights of the film, but unfortunately, for Eric, other than that, The Kitchen is basically just a paint-by-numbers gangster film. This sentiment was largely echoed by Richard Roeper, whose 2/4 star review for the Chicago Sun Times said:
Strong work by all, most notably the three leads, but the fine acting isn’t nearly enough to overcome a storyline that makes it increasingly difficult, and then downright impossible, to empathize with these women.
Despite the pedigree of the cast onscreen and the Oscar-nominated screenwriter handling the script and directing duties, The Kitchen does not rise to the level of prestige you might think according to Sheri Linden. In her review for The Hollywood Reporter, she said:
What's missing in this Kitchen is heat. A B-movie summer diversion at best, it's more a collection of genre tropes than an involving crime drama.
The overreliance on genre tropes is a common theme in the reviews for The Kitchen. And in a genre that has been explored countless times and by some of history’s best filmmakers, it seems that The Kitchen does little to set itself apart, settling for mild entertainment at best.
The disappointment in that is that, on paper, the ingredients are mostly there for something special, a fact that Josh Spiegel laments in his 3 out of 10 review for Slashfilm:
The concept of this movie works. The cast works. The story, either because it was hobbled from the start or because it was gutted to shreds in the editing room, flat-out fails.
That last point Josh brought up, that The Kitchen lost its way in the editing room, is something also expressed by The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee, who found The Kitchen to be a tonal mess that vacillates between gritty and cartoonish. In his particularly scathing 1 star review he said:
Scenes either end too soon or go on too long, fights are confusingly choreographed, reaction shots are strangely chosen, editing is baffling – it’s a swirling pot of bad decisions leading to an end dish that’s both undercooked and overheated.
Yikes! Most critics didn’t dislike the film as much as that, with most finding it more disappointing than offensive. Still, The Kitchen really worked for some critics with the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle appreciating the female perspective on the mob genre and overall really enjoying the film. In his review, he said:
The Kitchen is not a great film. Its graphic novel origins can’t be completely obscured. But it’s a very good film, and a deeply satisfying one.
It seems that there is good and bad to be found in Andrea Berloff’s directorial debut. For the majority of critics, The Kitchen is less than the sum of its parts; a tonal mess that is full of clichés evident to anyone who has seen a film in this well-trodden genre. But there is good to be had with great performances from the film’s three leads and a different take on a gangster movie.
The Kitchen opens in theaters on August 9. Check out our premiere guide to keep track of all the movies on the way this year.