Trigger-happy women doing their men’s dirty work

Trigger-happy women doing their men’s dirty work photo: Warner Bros.

Two women in a kitchen spells trouble, as the saying goes. Here there are three. And it’s not the kind of kitchen you might be thinking of.

No, this is 1979 in Hell’s Kitchen in New York, a stronghold of the Irish Mafia (The Murphia?). The men in these women’s lives have been imprisoned for three years after a failed heist.

The subsistence money they’ve been receiving from The Mob isn’t enough to keep them in the style to which they’re accustomed so they decide to ape the actions of their “tough guy” menfolk to supplement it.

Thus Don Corleone becomes Donna Corleone. The Godfather becomes the Godmother, multiplied by three.

Norman Mailer once said that the main achievement of feminism was that it permitted women to behave as badly as men had been doing for centuries. Here they behave very badly indeed. “Everyone is dead!” the husband of one of them exclaims at one point. It’s hard to disagree with him.


Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Claire (Elisabeth Moss) and Ruby (Tiffany Haddish)  are the women in question. They create mayhem wherever they go as they seek to wrest control of The Kitchen from their male counterparts. Anyone who proves “difficult” gets his comeuppance. If you tangle with these ladies, you better be prepared to sleep with the fishes.

It’s more like a comedy than a thriller at times – and a black comedy at that. There’s sex, violence, swearing and a few gruesome scenes, so be warned.

McCarthy continues the career change she began with Can You Ever Forgive Me? last year to play a woman who’s deadlier than the male. Her sidekicks follow suit. They talk the talk and walk the walk but they still don’t look tough.

For a woman to scare me on screen we’d need to be talking Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction or Charlize Theron from Monster.  Their embrace of gore is also off the wall.

Maybe McCarthy should go back to comedy. These are really cartoon gangsters. Writer/director Andrea Berloff got an Oscar nomination for Straight Outta Compton. Where’s that Andrea Berloff? She dumbs herself down here to give us an exercise in faux-machismo.

The film is more like the recent Hustlers in its puckishness than a version of Goodfellas from the distaff side. Its ambition to reclaim a male-dominated genre for women sounded good in theory but it loses much in the process. The manner in which ruthless men cave in before the reconstructed threesome strains credulity to breaking point.

Domhnall Gleeson does a creditable American accent in the role of Gabriel. He  becomes Claire’s partner after her husband is imprisoned. His performance isn’t too bad either, but this is really a woman’s film.

I found the general concept hard to swallow, as I say, but if you accept it on an adolescent level it will while away 100 minutes for you without taxing your brain cells too much.