First Hit: At the beginning, this film had promise, but this promise fell away to mediocrity in the end.
The idea of three housewives taking over their husband’s gang-related activities because the husbands were jailed had intrigue and promise.
Kathy Brennan (Melissa McCarthy) is married with two children. Her husband, Jimmy (Brian d’Arcy James) is part of the local Hell’s Kitchen crime group that fleeces businesses for protection. He’s probably the least aggressive of the three men.
Ruby O’Carroll (Tiffany Haddish) is married to Kevin (James Badge Dale) who is currently the leader of this local crime group. His mother Helen (Margo Martindale) provides her son with direction about the band of thieves he runs. Her husband started the group, and therefore, she still holds some power over the neighborhood.
Claire Walsh (Elizabeth Moss) is married to Rob (Jeremy Bobb) who is a brutish bully of a man, and he regularly beats Claire and is a primary thug in this Hell’s Kitchen enforcement group.
The three men get caught by the FBI while robbing a local business and are sent away. The new temporary leader of the enforcement group said they will continue to financially provide for the wives while their husbands are doing time. However, the stipend is not enough. So the girls get together and decide they can become an enforcement group, thereby overriding their husbands' protection club.
Upon hearing that Rob, Claire’s husband, is in jail, Gabriel O’Malley (Domhnall Gleeson) comes back to the neighborhood and announces his return by shooting and killing a man who is attempting to rape Claire.
Teaching the three women how to efficiently cut up and get rid of the body, he becomes their primary enforcer. However, Claire wanting to never be bullied again, learns to kill and is exceptionally competent at this and cutting up bodies - she's a natural.
As the three women build their protection business, the old group comes after them. But are stymied because as the women take over another neighborhood, the local mafia head Alfonso Coretti (Bill Camp) calls for a meeting, and a deal is created between his group and the girls. Together they neutralize the original Hell’s Kitchen group and gain support by providing protection and labor jobs for the community.
There’s a side story that is hinted at and finally brought to life that Ruby is having an affair with one of the FBI investigators Gary Silvers (Common). This, to me, creates an unnecessary distraction and side story and is not required to advance, what could have been, a good story.
Ruby slowly tries to take over the group that Melissa, Ruby, and Claire started together, and the writer used this FBI link as a significant part of the reason for the takeover by Ruby.
When the women’s husbands get out of jail early, there is trouble as expected, and the conflict doesn’t end well for the husbands.
This story is about women taking charge and with Ruby’s link to a male FBI agent seemingly having some influence, took away the power and guts of this story.
Additionally, I thought the movie was too long by taking too much time to prove points. Also, I didn’t believe the FBI piece of the story needed to be even part of the film. There easily other ways to create motivation for Ruby.
Another part of the film which didn’t quite work was that the director, Andrea Berloff, didn’t ensure each scene was correctly set in the 1970s. For comparison to this sort of attention to detail watch Quentin Tarantino’s latest film and this one – the aspect isn’t there in this film.
McCarthy is strong as the Irish woman who, loves her children, works at creating a good home life, but when push comes to shove, she is tired of playing second fiddle. Haddish is equally strong in this role; however, the whole FBI relationship back story just wasn’t needed. There were other ways she could claim her race, sex, and power. Moss was outstanding as the pushed around wife who wasn’t going to take it any longer. Having been a punching bag for her husband, she commits to protecting herself and does this in spades. But it was her eyes and facial expressions that sold both sides of her really well. Camp was great as the honorable mafia head that kept his integrity in tack by honoring his agreements. Gleeson was excellent as the guy who finally got to have a relationship with Claire that he always wanted. Martindale was instrumental as the once-powerful wife and mother to her family’s mob protection group. She gets her comeuppance. Berloff wrote and directed this film, and as I’ve previously stated, the story lost its effectiveness by adding the unnecessary Ruby and Gary Silvers relationship. The film also ran out of steam and probably needed pruning.
Overall: This film had potential, showed it at times, but ultimately failed to deliver.