“This isn’t a freak show; it’s a deliberate and thoughtful film in which the characters are believable and we care about them. Gambon makes the thief a study in hatefulness. At the end of the film, I regretted it was over because it let him too easily off the hook. Mirren’s character transformation is almost frightening — she changes from submissive wife to daring lover to vicious seeker of vengeance. And watch the way she and Howard handle their sex scenes together, using sex not as joy, not as anavenue to love, but as sheer escapism; lust is their avenue to oblivion.
“The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover” is not an easy film to sit through. It doesn’t simply make a show of being uncompromising — it is uncompromised in every single shot from beginning to end. Why is it so extreme? Because it is a film made in rage, and rage cannot be modulated. Those who think it is only about gluttony, lust, barbarism and bad table manners will have to think again. It is a film that uses the most basic strengths and weaknesses of the human body as a way of giving physical form to the corruption of the human soul.” (Roger Ebert)