Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss give this wobbly mobster tale a female makeover

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An uneven mob movie with wild shifts in tone, "The Kitchen" never finds its footing. 

Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss star in this gritty '70s tale that oscillates between comedy and drama and is peppered with sudden, shocking bursts of violence. "The Kitchen Sink" might be a better title, since first-time writer-director Andrea Berloff throws it and everything else at the screen.   

"The Kitchen" is Hell's Kitchen, New York, where Kathy (McCarthy), Ruby (Haddish) and Claire (Moss) are wives of Irish mobsters. When their husbands are pinched by the FBI and sent to the hoosegow, the three women bond together to take over the neighborhood, causing a turf war with a rival mob and setting their sights on the entire city. 

Based on a comic book, "The Kitchen" has a pulpy feel and a grungy look, and Berloff effectively captures the filth of New York City in the late 1970s.

The performances are less successful, as each of the three leads seem to be in a different movie. 

Moss' Claire, abused by her husband, shacks up with a psychopath (a quite good Domhnall Gleeson) and takes great pleasure in the act of killing. Kathy has a much softer touch, and as played by McCarthy, never displays the ruthlessness needed to become a credible crime boss. Haddish, for her part, offers the most surface-level of the three performances, in which her period clothing and half-hearted glares do most of the heavy lifting.

As the body count rises, the film loses its way. A third act twist and the film's abrupt finish are both rushed, as if Berloff was unsure where to go next. All that time spent in the kitchen and this tale still feels undercooked.  

'The Kitchen'

GRADE: C

Rated R: for violence, language throughout and some sexual content

Running time: 103 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama 

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