Tony Cinciripini’s debut film begins as a formulaic Boyz N The Hood (1991) drama/heist-gone-wrong story, but gradually develops into a compassionate character study. After a five-year stint in prison for a bungled burglary, Johnny (Mekhi Phifer) returns back to his old neighbourhood — the eponymous Hell’s Kitchen — in an attempt to rebuild his life. It isn’t going to be that easy as people from his past complicate his life yet again. Even though Hell’s Kitchen focuses on Johnny, many of the supporting cast are given significant sub-plots to develop their characters. In particular, Angelina Jolie delivers an incredible performance as Johnny’s very angry ex-girlfriend. At first, she seems like a one-note character bent on revenge, but eventually Jolie shows a vulnerable side that takes her character in a new direction. Hell’s Kitchen is a refreshing change from the usual urban gangsta fare because it actually offers a sympathetic alternative to the standard nihilistic violence that is commonplace with these kinds of films. Love instead of hate: what a novel concept.