Film Review: WIDOWS (USA 2018) ***1/2

Widows Poster

Set in contemporary Chicago, amidst a time of turmoil, four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities, take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.


Steve McQueen


Gillian Flynn (screenplay by), Steve McQueen (screenplay by) | 1 more credit »

Drama heavyweight director of critical hits like HUNGER and 12 YEARS A SLAVE attempts an action packed pyro-technics thriller WIDOWS with quite an impressive cast of heavyweights headed by Viola Davis.

WIDOWS is that rare action movie centring on women proving that they too can carry an action film.  The script is by GONE GIRL author Gillian Flynn.

Veronica (Davis) lives an idyllic life in Chicago, ensconced in the loving arms of her husband, Rawlins (Liam Neeson), and in their luxurious condo.  But Rawlins bought that cushy life robbing people, unknown to Veronica, a teacher in the Chicago education system.  (There is no scene of Veronica at her work.)   When a job with his gang goes fatally wrong, Veronica’s life falls to pieces.  With a local crime lord (Brian Tyree Henry) and his muscle (Daniel Kaluuya) pressing her to pay Rawlins’s $2 million debt,  Veronica realizes her late husband’s shady business sees only one option: round up the three other women who had slept for years next to these seasoned criminals, and make a plan left by her husband to win their lives back.  There is also a side plot involving the crime lord running for office against another crooked white politician Tom Mulligan (Colin Farrell).  

The film’s most interesting character is Tom Mulligan.  Tom exerts a power both within and beyond the law, pushed by his father (Robert Duvall).  Tom appears to be a worthy candidate but deep inside, he is fed up of the father’s dynasty in Chicago and wants out.  It is not surprising that the film is at its most interesting when McQueen deals with the drama rather than the action as in the film’s best scene – the confrontation between Farrell and Duvall.

To make the heist film more personal, the film interweaves the lives and hence, problems of the 4 widows that undertake the heist.  Each have their own burdens.  The other three are played by Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, and Elizabeth Debicki all of whom shine in their roles.

McQueen has achieved the rare feat of being able to elicit unforgettable performances – not from a  few but from his entire cast.  The best two performances belong to Farrell who is aided by the most intriguing written character and GET OUT’s immediately recognizable Daniel Kaluuya who demonstrates how smooth violence can be executed.

As this is McQueen’s first action flick, one can see him trying too hard at times.  The romantic scenes are a bit too livid for comfort, all the kissing scenes involving the tongue.  This results in the kissing scene (mixed race) between Viola Davis and Liam Neeson that would make quite a few quite uncomfortable.  Credit for trying.

As a thriller, WIDOWS contains quite a few plot twists.  Well written and inserted into the storyline, they serve to enrich the drama rather than just being there for the sole purpose of surprise, a tactic that seems now too common in most Hollywood thrillers.

WIDOWS premiered successfully at the Toronto International Film Festival to general favourable reviews.  WIDOWS should not only please McQueen’s fan base but extend his career into the Hollywood mainstream.


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