Thursday, December 13, 2018


Re-imaging a twelve-hour mini-series into a two-hour film, Steve McQueen delivers an action-drama featuring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Debicki as the widows of an armed robbery team who are forced by the gangster (Brian Tyree Henry) turned political figure their husbands robbed to pay back what they owe.

There's an awful lot of plot and superfluous characters here, most likely because they appeared in the mini-series. A tighter focus on Viola Davis' character and the robbery itself could have helped shore up the script a bit more, which gets lost in the weeds a bit when dealing with the political aspirations of a criminal and the criminality of the son (Colin Farrell) running for his father's (Robert Duvall) office, as it seems to need at least one additional rewrite. The also the trouble with Debicki's arc, while her new-found self-confidence makes sense as part of the robbery I'm not sure how it makes her twice as intelligent by the movie's end (seriously, I was starting to expect a Keyser Söze twist). And the film isn't without twists, although none are particularly necessary to the overall plot or natural conclusion of the story. (And one actually wraps up things a bit too neatly.)

All that said, Widows is still really good. It could use some polish, but the guts of the film offer fascinating characters driven to extreme action based on circumstances beyond their control. Rodriguez draws the short-straw in a role she could easily play in her sleep, but Davis is terrific as the wife of a longtime criminal who is forced to enter his world for the first time. Daniel Kaluuya is creepy as hell as the gangster's right-hand man and Liam Neeson turns in a pretty good performance in his limited screentime as the leader of the crew killed off in the opening scene.

Although messy, and lacking the cool factor and stamina of something like Ocean's Eleven or Heat, Widows turns out to be a solid entry in the heist genre. Maybe its too much to hope for more from a heist flick modeled after a 30 year-old television mini-series. Despite its flaws, there's much here to appreciate, but had those flaws been addressed prior to release we may have gotten a great film instead of just a good one.

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