Gangster movies are inherently violent. Violence is part of the lifestyle depicted in the stories of the genre, and so featuring it is a necessity. Director Andrea Berloff’s THE KITCHEN is no exception, as there are multiple deaths and murders featured in the film — however, the filmmaker’s mindset and approach to the carnage is a bit different than you might expect. In the making of the movie, Berloff expressly didn’t want to glorify the horrors of the protagonists’ lives, and that included making sure that her stars looked uncomfortable holding weapons.
Andrea Berloff recently sat down with CinemaBlend at the Los Angeles press day for THE KITCHEN and while discussing her philosophy in regards to violence explained how it wound up influencing the preparation of stars Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss and Tiffany Haddish. While your typical gangster film will have actors working with specialists and gaining experience with firearms, that was explicitly something that the director didn’t want.
My feelings about all of it is that I think violence is really upsetting, and I think guns are really not OK and are really upsetting. And I think we have a really big gun problem. So, I didn't want guns to look particularly cool or violence to look particularly entertaining. I wanted it to be upsetting. So, I wouldn't let any of the actresses go for firearms training because I wanted them to look awkward when they held the gun. They're not supposed to be expert gunslingers, so I wanted it to feel heavy in their hands and look awkward.
In THE KITCHEN, based on the DC/Vertigo comic of the same name, Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss and Tiffany Haddish play the wives of a trio of Hell’s Kitchen gangsters who find themselves in serious trouble when their husbands are arrested and sentenced to multiple years in prison. Needing to keep roofs over their heads, they team up to form their own crime family, which naturally disrupts the operating system in New York. Still, the protagonists are new to hands-on violence, which explains a degree of inelegance in their weapon handling.
The presentation of characters with guns isn’t the only way that THE KITCHEN tried to deglamorize violence. Andrea Berloff further explained that there were also particular moves made in the sound mixing of the movie to have gunshots sound louder than normal. While not showcasing a great deal of gore on the screen, she still wants audiences to have physical reactions to the material.
I don't know if you noticed, but I slightly cranked the volume on the bullet shots ... because I want you to feel it. I want you to react to it. I think that it's too easy to not see it anymore, to let that violence kind of pass you by and not take it in. And I want people to go, 'Oh, my God, that was upsetting.' I want that feeling. I want people to acknowledge that's there. But there is a lot of violence, but there's actually very little blood, and it's not like — it is not a gore fest. I was not interested in that.
Also starring Domhnall Gleeson, Common, James Badge Dale and Margo Martindale, THE KITCHEN is playing now in AMC theatres.