Director Steve McQueen’s (12 Years a Slave) latest film Widows, based on the television series with the same name, is a heist film that’s filled with social commentary and compelling drama. Star studded is an understatement when referring to the ensemble cast that includes Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder), Elizabeth Debicki (The Cloverfield Paradox), Michelle Rodriguez (The Fate of the Furious), Cynthia Erivo (Bad Times at the Grand Royale), Liam Neeson (The Commuter), Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta), Daniel Kaluuya (Black Panther), Colin Farrell (Roman J. Israel, Esq.), Robert Duvall (In Dubious Battle), and Jon Bernthal (The Punisher). Set in Chicago, the movie’s title originates from a group of widows who come together to avenge the deaths of their husbands after a robbery gone wrong. Spoilers after the trailer.
As expected, the film’s strengths are its cast and its direction, especially the little things that Steve McQueen brought to the table. Early on in the film there’s a scene where there’s a conversation taking place during a car ride from a wealthy area of Chicago to a less fortunate area; and instead of focusing on the characters that are talking McQueen decides to focus on the outside of the vehicle so we can see the city in the background to put everything into perspective. McQueen uses various tight shots during the heist to help build up the suspense when there are close calls. Not having seen the original television series but based on its cast, I think McQueen and fellow screenwriter Gillian Flynn did a nice job at making this movie topical in today’s climate.
Being that it’s set in modern day Chicago the film brings the grit and dirtiness of Chicago politics to the big screen. Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) and Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) hold no punches during their campaigns for alderman. Jamal Manning’s brother Jatemme Manning (Daniel Kaluuya) is calculated, cold-blooded, brutal, sometimes to a cartoonish extent, and ruthless, which accounts for a few jaw-dropping scenes. Jack Mulligan’s father Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall) is spiteful, racist and is a
n accurate portrayal of a career politician. Henry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) is a strategic leader who plans every job down to a T. Rawlings who doesn’t have much dialogue in the film, but when he appears he’s always 3 steps ahead of everyone else. Rawlings is the leader of a botched robbery that leaves him and his crew dead. When their getaway car explodes with the 2 million dollars they stole inside it, it makes for an interesting story to say the least.
The performances of the widows were the best part of the film. None of them knew their husbands were out here robbin’ folks. Viola Davis’s portrayal of Veronica Rawlings could see her get an Oscar nomination. Her performance brings out all 5 stages of grief when she learns of her husband’s demise. When the Manning brothers found out that their money was stolen during Henry’s heist, they threatened her to pay it back. Linda Perelli (Michelle Rodriguez) has two small children, and after the death of her husband in a botched robbery she has the most to lose if the heist goes wrong. More on this later. Alice Gunner (Elizabeth Debicki) had an abusive husband who pampered her, but when he dies she’s lost and doesn’t know where her next meal is going to come from. Debicki does well with what she’s given. The widows include Belle (Cynthia Erivo), Perelli’s babysitter, to their crew when they go for the big score later in the film.
MAKE IT MAKE SENSE.
The YIKES of this film is the writing. The characters are very thin and the actors can only do as much as they can with what they are given, which is a shame because of the cast. McQueen and Flynn make a visually appealing film, but you gotta leave your brain at the door because there’s a lot of things that do not make any sense. I think the biggest issue is that this film is based on a tv series that went on for 2 seasons and they tried to compact it into a 2 hour movie so there’s not enough time to flush the characters out.
The Rawlings are the main couple in the film. When the robbery crew of husbands died early on in the film, it turns out that Henry faked his death and killed his crew so he could start a new life with the wife of one of his crew members. Drama, right? Jack Mulligan knew that Henry faked his death and later in the film Veronica finds out Henry faked his death. Henry and Jack have a friend at the morgue who they paid off so Henry can get away freely. Veronica finds out about her husband’s fake death when she puts her widows crew together and goes to the home of the only widow who did not join her crew, who also happens to be the widow that Henry got pregnant. At the end of the film, Veronica and her crew pull off their heist as she ends up killing Henry. There’s also a flashback when Henry and Veronica had a teenage son who was murdered by a police officer because the cop thought he was reaching for a weapon (TOPICAL!). The fact that later in the movie we find out that Henry is working with the people who killed his son doesn’t make much sense. The film shows soap opera levels of messy but with slightly better writing.
As we rewind it back, what doesn’t make sense about everything above is that the Manning brothers confront Veronica because her husband stole 2 million dollars from them and they want her to pay it back. Okay, cool, sure. Her husband leaves her plans for his next job, which turns out it’s to steal 5 million from Jack Mulligan and there’s blackmail photos to pair with it, and instead of giving those plans to the Mannings, she decides to assemble her crew to rob the Mulligans. Also, the 5 million dollars they are stealing is money that the Mulligans embezzled from their years of campaigning. Veronica tells her crew to trust each other and how the odds are against them because they are women, ya know, very topical cliches. Her crew needs a driver so that’s when they hire Belle, who might as well be a stranger on the street, no one in the crew knows and she’s only babysitted for Perelli for maybe two nights at most.
Michelle Rodriguez really got the short end of the stick on this one. Her character Linda Perelli has kids, and she makes a statement about how she doesn’t want her kids to know that she wouldn’t do anything if the Manning brothers came after her. It really didn’t have to be that way because she and the other widows could’ve easily told the Mannings what the job was and I’m confident that Jatemme would’ve loved to help. The Mannings hated the Mulligans, so logically it made sense to have them rob or blackmail them instead of the widows crew.
There’s a romantic subplot with Alice Gunner and David, a real estate developer that she met at a casino and enters a transactional relationship with. He’s a nice plot device because he tells the widows’ crew what building that their heist will take place in. His only other role is to tell Alice that she needs him and she doesn’t have any skills that can be used in the real world, ya know, a real confidence crusher. Alice’s only role is to tell people she’s not useless and they shouldn’t doubt her like her ex-husband did. Oh and her mom doubts her too. Not much development for the widow who is paired with a real estate developer, huh. Guess it be like that sometimes.
The acting and directing is superb. Watching the movie is good enough where you’ll get caught up in everything that is going on, which is a credit to the film. Viola Davis and Brian Tyree Henry had the best two performances in the film, and I would suggest checking it out for them. I’ve only seen Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out, but after watching this I think he makes a villain that can make a crowd hate him. The film has social commentary so you walk away with something to think about. I think the writing is what plagues this movie but it’s something I would recommend seeing as a rental or maybe paying for it at a matinee.
[a si a si]
[All Mames Wey]