Reel Reviews | Widows

by Charles Kirkland

Women can be just as bad as men when it comes to a heist in Steve McQueen’s follow-up to 12 Years a Slave, Widows.

Veronica Rawlings (Viola Davis) has lost her husband Harry (Liam Neeson).  While Veronica was well aware of what her husband did for a living as a thief, she was unprepared for his loss.  After the funeral for her husband, because of a job gone horribly wrong, politician-gangster, Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) approaches Victoria and demands the money that her husband and his crew stole from him.  Desperate for help, Victoria turns to the now widows of the other dead crew members to pull off a job that Henry left her with the hope that their success will set them free.

Directed by Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave, Hunger) and written by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), Widows is a super smart and stylish crime drama that defies definition.  Comparisons to its distant cousin, Set It Off are obvious because of women pulling off a heist but McQueen and Flynn set the groundwork for a heist film that rivals the classics Heat and more recently, The Town.  Yet where those movies had a defining violent moment, Widows, like the women who star in the movie, is more elegant in its presentation than anything prior.  Flynn’s screenplay is intelligent and unpredictable and McQueen’s visionary framing and shot angles are the perfect compliments to a script that keeps the viewers off balance.

Widows has an all-star cast that includes Davis, Neeson, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell, and Daniel Kaluuya.  Each one of the actors has a character that is well defined and almost perfectly weighted to make this film an ensemble feature.  With that said, there are stellar performances to be witnessed.  Viola Davis continues to portray complex women in an intensely intimate manner that is outstanding.  Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Black Panther, Sicario) is intensely wicked as Jatemme Manning.  The usually likeable actor is vicious, maniacal and mean in a way that reminds of Heath Ledger’s Joker and would normally steal the show if it wasn’t for Duvall’s performance as an angry, racist ex-politician father to Colin Farrell’s Jack Mulligan, a frustrated politician who is trying to escape the shadow of his father.

The one problem of the movie is the men.  Every man in the film is flawed whether it is the simple disdain that Jack feels for anything of his father and the whole political world in which he is forced to reside or the just flat-out cruelty of Kaluuya’s Manning.  Fortunately, there are the women who come to rescue each of them yet each one of them varies in their level of heroism.  It is more than a coincidence that Davis character is clothed in the purest of white in most of her scenes.

Set in Chicago, Widows captures the soul and history of the city while illustrating its complexities.  Few things are as it seems, every action has meaning and there is a motive behind the motion.  Rated R for violence, language throughout and some sexual content, Widows is a gem movie that displays girl power at its most powerful.

Grade:  B+