The Kitchen ★★★

(Extended version of my review for Willamette Week)

Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss, and Tiffany Haddish star as three Irish mob wives who are left penniless and desperate when their criminal husbands are sent to prison. To survive the grittiness of 1978 Hell’s Kitchen, they pick up where their spouses left off, and find they’re even more skilled at the fine art of organized crime. Utilizing their traditionally feminine proclivities for strategic communication and vulpine manipulation, the trio savor their ascension. Then their husbands are released. Once the formerly disenfranchised sample the irresistible flavor of power, how do they return to the banality of packing the kids’ school lunches?

An intriguing premise that suffers from sloppy execution, the immense talent of the three leads saves the otherwise middling crime-drama that last year’s excellent Widows essentially did first and with more gravitas. It is, however, a welcome improvement over its source material, Ollie Masters’ eponymous DC comic. While the comic is plot-heavy and features eyeroll-inducingly beautiful mobstresses speaking and acting in ways that imply Masters has never interacted with a human woman, writer/director Andrea Berloff’s adaptation is more authentic and character-driven. Added subplots include the intersection of race and womanhood (demonstrated by the trials Haddish's character endures after marrying into a white mob family), as well as the societal issues that prevented women of the time period from achieving true independence (i.e. no marketable skills or degree because they married young, the life-long conditioning to be docile and domestic, etc.). It’s enjoyable overall, if, instead of picking apart the cringe-worthy dialogue and non-existent pacing, you opt to bask in the blood-red glow of antiheroines unapologetically carving out their own spaces in a man’s world.

(Another plus is the scene of Moss and Domhnall Gleeson chopping up the corpse of a rapist they killed together. It is extremely romantic and the movie's true saving grace.)