Street Smart


16 November 2018| No Comments on Widows     by Sean Chavel



Steve McQueen, the director, has thought of a different way to do a heist thriller. Widows is an intricately plotted drama where the surviving wives of dead criminals out of realistic desperation have to steal millions to settle a score. Two million has been stolen from the political campaign of a rising Chicago inner city black politician who has support from a ruthless gang, and that leaves Viola Davis, as Veronica Rawlins, in a rut to return the money or she will be hunted down. Liam Neeson is her dead husband Harry, who has left a book of elaborately drawn heist plans. Five million rests somewhere mapped on a blueprint without a definite address. She needs the address. Although her husband was a careerist, she is not terrifically skilled in being a criminal. But she and her other widow associates have got to get up to speed real fast.

An outstanding ensemble populates the film. Colin Farrell is the opposing politician running in a Chicago district, Robert Duvall is his drum-beating father. Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki are the other widows whose husbands left them out to dry. Daniel Kaluuya is about as menacing a gangster type we have ever seen in a movie, he doesn’t let his victims “talk it out” but rather without warning inflicts pain. Brian Tyree Henry, Cynthia Erivo, Lukas Haas, Carrie Coon and Jackie Weaver make strong impressions.

Davis makes for an interesting but not traditionally entertaining lead. She is all anger and severe survivalist mentality, spurring the others to assist her in a dead serious heist with little conventional humanity that shines through but perhaps in one scene briefly. Flashbacks to Neeson keep haunting her, making us wonder if she frets that maybe she should have appreciated him more, been a better wife. He left behind a trail of serious baggage, and she might have wished she knew more of everything about him.

“Widows” feels appropriately that it was written for the screen by “Gone Girl” novelist Gillian Flynn (co-written by McQueen) since it has no-nonsense women and the gift for unlaying some jaw-dropping revelations. However, it is based on a novel by Lynda La Plante. Everything is so remarkably intelligent – the stuff of classics – but there is one noticeable coincidence in the film. One of the women just happens to sleep with a man who might know something about how to get the essential address. I don’t think this female character enjoys sleeping with this man in the first place – there’s at least a lot of shame in it. But if there is going to be a coincidence in this movie, at least it says something about how certain people thrust themselves into the lives of others out of a certain cosmic force, because certain men and women have been pre-destined for each other to fulfill certain needs or gain a life lesson.

McQueen last directed the Oscar-winning “12 Years a Slave” five years ago, and the NC-17 “Shame” previously. He has for the first time taken a conventional genre and done something unconventional with it. His heroine is even uncompromising. He juggles a lot of characters effortlessly. His camera work strives with artistry. I was never left with goosebumps under my skin, but I admired the cast “Widows” tremendously and on an intellectual level, riveted.

128 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “Heat” (1995); “Set It Off” (1996); “Heist” (2001); “Gone Girl” (2014).



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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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