- 16 Nov 18
Smart heist flick with fiery female leads.
It's a nice coincidence that Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya plays a key role in Steve McQueen's latest film. Because yes, Widows is a genre movie - but it's a heist thriller in the same way that Get Out was a horror film. It expands and complicates genre conventions to explore societal issues such as race, class, gender and power - while remaining entertaining as hell.
Viola Davis is formidable as Veronica Rawlins, a woman whose life has fallen apart. Unbeknownst to her, her husband Harry (Liam Neeson), was a major crook who was killed on a job. Now, she not only has to battle her grief and shock, she's also being threatened by notorious criminal Jamal Manning, who says Harry owed him $2 million. When Veronica finds Harry's detailed plan for a multi-million dollar robbery, she realises two truths: this heist is her only hope, and she's going to need help to carry it off.
Enter willowy escort Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) and street-smart mother Linda (Michelle Rodriguez); widows of Harry's cronies who died by his side. As broke and desperate as Veronica, they agree to team up, aware that their status as underestimated women in a world of abusive, powerful men is both a vulnerability and a power.
These men include racist politicians (Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall), an ego-driven Reverend (Jon Michael Hill), and Kaluuya's sadistic criminal enforcer. As the men's individual quests for power intersect, McQueen and co-writer Gillian Flynn illustrate how Chicago's class and race divisions are being exploited and augmented for the benefit of a select few, rendering the city itself a victim.
The socio-political issues are deftly layered under the human drama, which is elevated by compelling performances. There are some pacing issues, and the heist itself proves slightly disappointing, but there are twists and shocks aplenty among the smarts. McQueen's usual cinematic artistry is also missing, leading to a more generic looking film than expected, but the pulp factor is just right.