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Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss
Director: Andrea Berloff
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
RUNTIME: 102 Mins
Sisters were definitely doing it for themselves in this 1970s mobster movie with family and female empowerment being at the forefront and a funky music soundtrack to vibe to.
This gangster film tells the story of three wives fighting for their rights and their desire to help their families as well as their neighbourhood – Hell’s Kitchen in New York. It was based on DC/Vertigo’s graphic novel written by Ollie Masters and illustrated by Ming Doyle.
While some movie critics believed it flopped, I found it to be an entertaining watch with some “Oh no she didn’t” and “what just happened” moments. It may not be up there with gangster greats such as The Godfather and Goodfellas but it did offer a look at the harsh reality of living in Hell’s Kitchen and how women were being treated on the regular.
Director Andrea Berloff made this viewer feel as though she was back in 1978 wearing flared denim and crop tops and jiving to the sounds of Fleetwood Mac, Etta James and The Rolling Stones. It may have been a man’s world, but it’s true, it ain’t nothing without a women or a girl and Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss proved that.
These are three different women with completely different personalities and upbringing, all trying to make the best out of horrible situations. Let’s meet the characters shall we?
McCarthy, who usually takes on comedic roles, played the sweet and caring Kathy Brennan who wants nothing but the best for her children, parents and her husband Jimmy (Brian D’arcy James). She is a devoted wife who supports her criminal husband no matter what he does, even though her father disapproves of him and her felonious lifestyle.
Haddish plays Ruby O’Carroll, Kevin’s (James Badge Dale) wife. Kevin runs the Irish mob family business and is never late to berate Ruby for either being lazy or a woman. Ruby is especially hated by the matriarch of the Irish family, Helen O’Carroll (Margo Martindale), Kevin’s mother. She runs the show behind the scenes and despises Ruby for being black. She also desperately wants her “to sleep with the fishes” so to speak.
Then there is Moss. She plays Claire Walsh, a submissive wife to Rob (Jeremy Bobb). She not only gets beaten up regularly but is also treated like garbage by her husband and most of her male encounters within the movie.
From the beginning of the film, women will feel a connection to the wives and most probably shake their heads at their sorry states.
It doesn’t take long for the husbands to get snagged by Gary Silvers, an FBI agent played by rapper Common, and sent to prison for three years. They were busted rubbing a store in the first act.
Kathy is devastated and worries about how she will feed her two children. She has no skills and is a stay-at-home mum with no educational background or work experience. Ruby fears for her life with Kevin gone as lord knows how Helen will try to kill her. She sets out to plan a change in power. Meanwhile, Claire is the only happy wife who is thrilled to not be a punching bag for three years.
Nonetheless, the women have to figure out how they will make ends meet, since the mob barely gave them any cash to survive. First they approached the fellas, namely Little Jackie (Myk Watford) who was running the show after Kevin got imprisoned. Little Jackie scoffs at the women for wanting to help. They even offered to collect money from the shops under the mob’s protection who had not paid yet. The men of course laughed and dismissed them and basically told them to shut up and to let the men handle the dirty work.
At first, the ladies felt at a loss but then they started asking the shops why they hadn’t paid and found out there were a lot of nightmarish antics happening within their area. Kathy’s heart went out for the business owners and her community members. Ruby and Kathy then devised a plan to help the community by running their own syndicate with Claire. They hired a couple of goons, one being Kathy’s cousin Duffy (John Sharian), to play the muscle when needed and when they weren’t being taken seriously for being women.
The ladies cleaned up the streets from crime; helping their stores and making the area feel safe and great again. Businesses stopped paying Little Jackie which made him a sourpuss. It also put the ladies in danger but they didn’t care. They were banking in money and making their community a better place to live. They were also putting their people, who have not had jobs for years and needed to make money too, to work in construction and other contract jobs in Brooklyn after making a deal with an upscale Italian mobster. They had power, alliances and protection covered.
Their skills had no bounds and they were climbing the mobster ladder faster than their husbands ever did. Instead of waiting around to be rescued, they took the challenge on themselves and in fact did a better job.
The best part of the movie was watching Claire blossom from a scared female into a strong, take no muss or fuss from any man, killer. Yes, her love interest Gabriel O’Malley (Domhnall Gleeson), who is a messed up vet, teaches her how to be all she can be and protects the ladies during their dangerous exploits.
Another moving moment was when Kathy got choked up telling her father that women are afraid for their lives every day. It looked like McCarthy was sharing a real emotion and spoke from experience.
There is a twist at the end so I will stop here. There were some points within the movie where everything was either happening too fast or dragging along but of course it all worked out in the end.
Overall, it was a poignant watch with lots to say, especially in a time where women are rising to the top in every industry. This movie was full of girl power vibes to unite women everywhere and show them that they can accomplish anything they put their mind to…including running a mob. They showed those men that if they can’t stand the heat, they better get out of the kitchen.
Mai’s verdict: 3/5