Directed by Steve McQueen
Screenplay by Gillian Flynn and Steve McQueen
Based on “Widows” by Lynda La Plante
Starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Robert Duvall, Liam Neeson
Whatever you think Steve McQueen’s “Widows” is about, throw your notions out the door before you enter the theater. McQueen’s ultra slick heist film is much more than a heist; it’s a deeply layered story with magnetic performances from its stellar cast, including Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Eviro.
A job has gone bad and Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) and his crew are dead, leaving their widows with absolutely nothing, but a reputation. As the screenplay from Gillian Flynn and McQueen builds, we learn that there was more to the heist than met the eye; a lot of hands are in the pie, including two alderman who are fighting for their jobs, one an established politician, Jack Mulligan (Collin Farrell) and the other a crime boss turned politician, Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry).
When Veronica Rawlings (Viola Davis) discovers something left behind from Harry, she is threatened by a local enforcer, Jatemme Manning (Daniel Kaluuya). Undeterred, she sets out to take back what’s rightfully hers.
The beauty in McQueen’s story is not just in the casting, but in the way the story is told. This might be blasphemy, but the best way to describe this story to your friends is “The Counselor” meets “Heat.” The story is layered with so much detail, and surprise that you never know what’s going to come out of the next corner.
Viola Davis is very nearly a national treasure. She has the ability to just turn in to an emotionless being, but behind the eyes, there’s a level of intelligence that just leaps through the screen; she is calculating every move. Cynthia Erivo, who amazed audiences with her silky voice in “Bad Times at the El Royale” is on fire here as Belle. Michelle Rodriguez is Linda. She’s as tough as they come, but she has a softer, more humane side to her here. Elizabeth Debicki as Alice is the unknown card here and it is something the story thrives on though I won’t say why here. Let’s just say that the four of them make for a formidable team in any situation.
Of the supporting cast, Daniel Kaluuya was relentless and I liked that harder edge to him. He was threatening and charming at the same time. Brian Tyree Henry played a politician to the hilt as he balances his underworld dealings with his political stripes and in Chicago, I get this feeling that there isn’t much difference between the two worlds. Colin Farrell is a firecracker with an axe to grind as Jack Mulligan. The biggest aspect to his character is the fact that he’s living under his father, Tom’s shadow. Jack wants to be his own boss, but the elder Mulligan, played by Robert Duvall has other ideas.
The fact that the production shot on location in Chicago lends a nice authenticity to the film as Chicago becomes as much a character of the film as the actors. Flynn and McQueen never make the team’s job easy and I think that’s the film’s strength: as much as we want to see the mystery solved, we enjoy the ride in getting there. The cast and the story are so very strong that “Widows” would very easily make my Top 10 of 2018 if tomorrow was the end of the year.
4 out of 4 stars.