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Rated 3.08 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Women Take Over New York Rackets
by James Colt Harrison

What could be better than a story ripped from the headlines and based on a true incident? Set in the 1970s, The Kitchen relates what happened when the tough wives of some notorious New York gangsters took over the rackets after their husbands were locked up in the slammer. Strange, but true. As has been said, truth is stranger than fiction.

There was a time back in the 1930s when we had great “gun molls” like Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell. They swarmed about the Warner Bros. lot like gals who knew what they were doing and did it to our delight on the silver screen. Melissa McCarthy and Elisabeth Moss aren’t quite in the same category as Blondell and Farrell, but as modern Irish Mafia wives, they do a pretty good job of being “tough” and “savvy” about their husbands’ nefarious activities.

Set in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen -- a melting pot in the 1920s and 1930s for immigrants -- and the real birthplace of another Warner Bros. “bad guy,” the original “grapefruit -in-the-face” James Cagney. You can’t get any tougher than that, and he did it while dancing on the toes of his tap shoes. This film is a modern look at what may have never changed: criminals!

What’s a girl to do when her husband gets caught in a sting operation and is sent off to prison by the FBI? They were all tough Irish guys who had a stranglehold over Hell’s Kitchen. They ran the rackets, they provided “protection” to the little shop owners. Now all that is gone. Or is it?

Never underestimate the power of a woman in need. Claire (Elisabeth Moss), Kathy (Melissa McCarthy) and Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) are women in need who have an idea about how to survive without their husbands. Kathy is the original ringleader and gal with ideas. She can be tough. Although you may initially want to laugh at McCarthy and Haddish -- two ladies known for their comedy chops -- they are no laughing matter here. Their characters are serious. They want to form a coalition and take over their husbands’ rackets. These three are not very nice ladies when it comes to squeezing money out of the local businesses.

Claire falls for the immoral Gabriel, played deliciously by Domhnall Gleeson. He teaches Claire how to carve up a body as though it’s a Thanksgiving turkey. It’s a grisly scene that will have you averting your eyes and then looking back so as not to miss the finer points of using a razor-sharp carving knife on a tattooed leg. It’s a scene Chef Gordon Ramsay would approve.

We follow the three ladies in their pursuit of money and territory. Unfortunately, none of them are very admirable characters. They seem totally immoral and not anybody you would want to cuddle against. Haddish shows her dramatic acting ability in some provocative scenes. We know she can act dramatic scenes now, so she will be cast in future dramatic and comic productions with ease. McCarthy is branching out into the serious field and does well. Moss is the most evil of the three. She quickly becomes blood-thirsty and learns to use a pistol as easily as if it were a tube of lipstick.

And we leave the gals as the rat-tat-tat of machine guns echoes in our ears…

(Released by Warner Bros. and rated “R” for violence, language throughout, and some sexual content.)

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