The reviews for The Kitchen have rolled in, and, sadly, things don’t look good. What do the professional critics think of the latest DC film? Lets take a look and see.
Screenwriter Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton) takes the helm for the first time with this story of women taking the reins, and though she might have adapted the source material pre-#MeToo, the zeitgeist rooting factor for the femme-centric project is high. (A cameo by Annabella Sciorra, a key figure in that movement, packs a punch.) 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.
There’s so much talent in The Kitchen, and so much of it wasted; that’s kind of all you can think about for most of writer-director Andrea Berloff’s debut — a girls-can-do-crime-too story that can’t quite decide if it wants to be a drama or a caper, and just ends up settling for some silly, sour place in between.
There’s a double cross you won’t see coming, and one that you probably will. There are woman-power rock chestnuts (“Barracuda,” “Gold Dust Woman”) on the soundtrack, and a dollop of rah-rah didacticism that makes “The Kitchen” feel, at times, like a gender-flipped remake of a movie that never was. Mostly, though, there’s a story that’s functional in a gloomy second-hand way. I wish Tiffany Haddish got to do more than glower, and that Margo Martindale had a bigger role as Helen, a dowdy behind-the-scenes mob queen who’s like Livia Soprano played by Mrs. Doubtfire. And I wish Andrea Berloff, who wrote “World Trade Center” and co-wrote “Straight Outta Compton” (this is her first time out as a director), portrayed the Hell’s Kitchen settings with more juice and flavor and detail — too much of the time, the film seems to be taking place in generic movie Mobville. The women are game, but there’s not enough heat in “The Kitchen.”
Stories, and crime dramas in particular, are under no obligation to make their characters moral. In fact, they’re often more interesting when they’re not. But one would hope that edgy antiheroines like these would be a little more exciting to watch. Save yourself the disappointment and go rent Widows instead.
The premise of women fighting against a patriarchal system in a particularly difficult time period in a particularly tough locale feels ever-prescient and even within the confines of comic book territory, there feels like a much smarter and more intricately layered film that could have been made here. But Berloff never manages to get underneath the surface, despite a number of failed attempts to provide social commentary, and as the film limps toward a shambolic, confusing conclusion, any hope that it might improve is replaced with relief that it’s finally about to end. It’s one of the most scattered and incoherent studio films in recent memory, made with such careless abandon that anyone brave enough to buy a ticket should automatically ask for a refund.