One of the greatest compliments I can give Widows is that it is a movie set in Chicago and understands Chicago. That says a lot, considering director Steve McQueen is from London, England and had yet to direct a film that had this commercial of a plot. The windy-city connection is the script is penned by Gone Girl writer and Chicago native Gillian Flynn. This is a heist film, through and through, and we waste no time with introductions. We meet four men (Jon Bernthal, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Coburn Gross), led by career criminal Harry Rawlings (Neeson), in the middle of a recent score that has gone bad. The end result leaves their bodies charred from an explosion and their wives all widows, left to pick up their broken pieces.
Veronica (Davis) was the wife to Harry, a supportive woman, willing to turn a blind eye to her husbands crooked ways. Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) was married to Florek (Bernthal), he had a messed up way of showing her his love with his fists. Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) operates her own clothing store, but is left with the debt her husband failed to mention. And Amanda (Carrie Coon) is home with a 4-month old baby, fighting to survive without the man in her life. Each one a different path, all connected to the men that failed them. And now the people they stole the money from are looking to get what is owed to them.
This is an ensemble piece, which involves many moving parts, but McQueen and Flynn do an excellent job of weaving various characters together, along with the subplot of corrupt politicians in Chicago. Collin Farrell is Jack Mulligan, running for 18th ward, not necessarily because he wants to, but because his father Tom (Robert Duvall) pushes him to keep the family line going. His opponent is Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), the person looking for his money, and releasing his psychotic brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya in a performance that shook me up) on anyone who owes him. Lucky for Veronica, her husband left her a book with exact details for the next heist. The Widows have two choices in front of them, steal the money together or wait for the grim reaper to knock at their door. What happens next is what you have to see.
There are a lot of things I want to discuss about Widows, specifically that it is truly the first film from McQueen that is pure entertainment. The director of Hunger, 12 Years a Slave, and Shame, has had a steady hand to paint portraits of the human condition. It often involves those that struggle to survive, fight for what they believe in, or deal with their painful addictions; And when I say it out loud like that, Widows is not far off from all of those themes. This is a movie about women fighting to survive. Surviving to provide for their children. Stuck with a choice to live or die. McQueen portrays all of that through a phenomenal lead performance by Viola Davis (Fences), and even more impressive work by Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2).
As the woman prep for their climactic job, McQueen continues to drive his message home. We are introduced to Cynthia Erivo's character, a multiple job working mother, with no affiliation to the group, revealing a woman willing to make a sacrifice, because she knows what it takes. And then there is a single take that encapsulates everything about Chicago, where Farrell's character leaves a fundraising event in a broken neighborhood, only to drive a few blocks away to his massive mansion. If those two things alone don't describe the world today, then you're not paying enough attention.
It all comes together in a fantastic action film. Bookended by a phenomenal opening and a climactic end, which all comes together with Hans Zimmer's spine tingling score, sharp editing by Joe Walker, and cinematography by Sean Bobbitt, Widows is the heist movie we desperately needed today. I just hope this means more action movies with Viola Davis leading the charge and Steve McQueen behind the camera.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady
STARRING: VIOLA DAVIS; MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ; ELIZABETH DEBICKI; LIAM NEESON
DIRECTED BY: STEVE MCQUEEN
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
There is a shot in Steve McQueen's Widows of Viola Davis' hand pressed against the whitest of white linen bed sheets. It's a simple image and yet, it looked like a gorgeous painting to me. A shot like this is seldom seen in an action film, but it also encapsulates a lot. A woman alone in her bed, in her luxury high-rise apartment, bought with money from a husband that doesn’t have a legal profession. On the surface, Widows is just another action film with car chases, and yet, it is a movie about gender roles, corruption, gentrification, what women must go through to prove their worth, and the men who keep messing things up. Widows is gangbusters, pulse-pounding action, and hands down one of the most entertaining movies of 2018.