Director Steve McQueen's follow up to 12 Years A Slave, written by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, based on a 1983 British television mini-series staring an All-Star cast lead by Viola Davis and Liam Neeson featuring Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya and Robert Duvall. Those were the headline-grabbing initial details circulating about Widows. Lofty expectations were immediately hatched but from the moment the audience is dropped into the middle of the attempted getaway of Harry Rawlings (Neeson) and fellow criminals Jimmy Nunn (Coburn Goss), Florek (Jon Bernthal) and Carlos (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) from the police in what seems to be a setup. The audience is hooked, expectations are met, a high starting marker placed that is soon exceeded.
After the failed heist the crews' partners are left to pick up the pieces. Veronica (Davis) Harry's widow is visited by local crime boss Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) who was the target of the botched job placing the 2 million dollar theft on her. Veronica finds her late husband's notebook with the details of the crew's next job that will net 5 Million. She recruits the only people she can for the venture. The other partners that lost their husbands in the Manning job to assist. As if there is not already enough meat on the plot point bone the production throws in the twisted world of Chicago politics where Manning supported by his sadistic younger brother Jatemme (Kaluuya) is running for 18th ward Alderman hoping to occupy the open seat of Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall) that is also being contested by Mulligan's posh looking, fast talking son Jack (Colin Farrell) whose a long time hushed associate of Harry.
McQueen brings together all of these divergent elements with a masterful hand. His special eye for framing a shot shines in many instances throughout the piece. Paramount is the sequence where Jack (Farrell) is riding with his assistant from his gated home into the poor ethnic ward 18 where he is running. The camera is placed outside aimed at the front windshield of the limo. Jack is having an unseen heated political discussion inside. The houses and streets rush by at the side of the frame continually getting smaller, less manicured and more run down as the limo goes deeper into the district. The story also focuses on the split between rich and poor with a heavy focus on female entrepreneurs trying to keep their businesses afloat in poorer communities. Among them the always feisty Michelle Rodriguez as Linda the freshly widowed mother of 2 trying to keep her new clothing store viable despite her late husband Carlo's (Garcia-Rulfo) gambling debts reaching out at her from the grave.
Viola Davis leads the line as Victoria, her husband Harry(Neeson), was the meticulous brains behind the crew. She's the one under direct threat therefore she recruits, funds and organizes the women's job. Model turned actor Elizabeth Debicki is extremely resourceful as Alice. She was abused by her deceased husband Florek (Bernthal), at first glance seems the victim but uses her skills to secure valuable information for the heist. Robert Duvall is the best that he has been on screen in years in the limited role of Tom Mulligan. He sees his son as a disappointment and will not stand for a Mulligan not running the ward that is the family birthright. Look for newcomer Cynthia Erivo as Belle a blue-collar late arrival to the party that has a significant impact on the caper.
Widows is an excellent platform for a drama oriented director to expand his action film chops. The loaded cast supported by a superb script and a helmer who continues to delight with new and unusual visuals make this a must see that will grace many a top ten list at years end along with top line consideration come awards season.
**** Out of 4.
Widows | Steve McQueen | U.K. / U.S.A. | 2018 | 129 minutes.
Tags: Robbery, Widow, Funeral, Election, Chicago, Politics, Escorting, Recruiting Safe Room, Blueprints, Reconnaissance. Gun Range, Masks.