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McCarthy gets serious in The Kitchen

The Kitchen is not full of silly giggles like Mike & Molly or Bridesmaids.

Yes, Melissa McCarthy scored an Oscar nomination earlier this year for her nuanced performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, but her latest film, The Kitchen, is new territory for the actor.

The Kitchen is set in New York's seedy, crime-ridden Hell's Kitchen in 1978 and McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss play the wives of Irish mobsters who step up to run the crime syndicate when their husbands are sent to prison.

It is violent, gory and the language extreme.

"She absolutely kills it," The Kitchen's writer-director Andrea Berloff, describing McCarthy's performance as mob boss Kathy Brennan, told AAP.

"I think we've seen so many movies with Melissa, but I cannot wait for audiences to see this because I think in some ways this is the Melissa that I know personally.

"She is strong, she's fierce and she's a very protective mother."

The Kitchen is based on the DC comic book series Vertigo and follows the three women as they struggle to pay the bills with their husbands in jail, and then plot to take control of the syndicate.

McCarthy, who starred in TV series Gilmore Girls, Samantha Who? and Mike & Molly before becoming one of the movie industry's top comedians, said she did not make a deliberate decision to turn away from comedy.

"For me, it's really fun to do both," McCarthy said.

"I love drama and I love comedy."

She read The Kitchen script, was hooked and signed on.

"I love that you really saw these three characters have to fight for it and make really the best of bad decisions because they had no other choice," McCarthy said.

"You just don't come by scripts like that."

Hollywood has been criticised for its reluctance to hire female filmmakers and make female-driven movies.

Berloff, a first-time director, said Hollywood studio Warner Bros backed The Kitchen "from the get-go".

"They wanted to make this movie with three women at the centre, they hired me, a first-time director, to direct it, they were supportive and gave us the money that we needed," said Berloff, who was nominated for an original screenplay Oscar in 2016 for Straight Outta Compton.

Berloff said the jury remained out on whether The Kitchen was a significant step in the right direction for Hollywood.

"I think that remains to be seen," Berloff said.

"We'll see.

"I do think that we are a piece of an experiment that's going on.

"Will audiences come out for female-driven fare or female-helmed fare?

"If they want to see more of this, they have to go buy a ticket.

"I think that there is a world of stories out there and who wants to see the same movie over and over again?

"None of us do."

The Kitchen is playing in Australia.

© AAP 2019