Movie Review: ‘Widows’ (Second Opinion)
You can read Gfunk’s review right here!
Plot: After her criminal husband Harry (Liam Neeson) is killed in a robbery gone wrong, Harry’s widow Veronica (Viola Davis) is devastated. Things worsen when crime boss and aspiring politician Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) comes to collect the $2 million debt Harry owed him. Manning gives Veronica one month to pay the debt. Desperate Veronica turns to the widows of Harry’s colleagues Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) and proposes a daring idea: execute Harry’s last potential job, a payout worth $5 million.
Review: It’s hard to believe that it’s been five long years since director Steve McQueen’s last feature film. HIs previous movie, 12 Years a Slave won the Oscar for Best Picture and put him on the map as a director to be reckoned with. Even though it’s been half a decade, the wait was well worth it as Widows is a powerhouse heist thriller on par with Michael Mann’s Heat. While this is certainly a departure for McQueen as he’s known for more contemplative and elegiac fare like Shame, you’d be mistaken to think this is a mere genre flick. There’s also subtle social commentary on feminism, race, guns, and spousal abuse. Yet it never comes off preachy or didactic.
McQueen proves again that he’s a master filmmaker and I’d argue from a cinematography standpoint, Widows may be the best shot movie of the year. There’s a brilliant sequence where a car is tracked while dialogue between corrupt politician Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) and Mulligan’s campaign manager Siobhan (Molly Kunz) continues off-screen. You see the change in the Chicago neighborhood from ghetto to upper class. The subtext becomes clear with no need for exposition. Another sequence follows two rappers performing for one of Jamal’s thugs. It circles the trio over and over until it ends in unexpected and jarring violence. If Sean Bobbitt doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for cinematography it will be a travesty. It compliments Hans Zimmer’s pulse pounding score, that’s again reminiscent of Heat. Once again Zimmer proves why he’s one of the great film composers of his generation.
The performances in Widows are top-notch across the board. Viola Davis is her usual awesome self. Her Veronica comes off determined and slightly bitchy. She’s hardened and cold from the loss of her husband but also the loss of her son, something she blames Harry for. You can’t help but feel compassion for her plight even if her upper class life is from ill-gotten gains. The real standout of the bunch however is Elizabeth Debicki as Alice. She steals every scene she’s in and her character gets the most development, from battered house wife to empowered single woman. Of the three, she’s the one I rooted for the most. Rodriguez holds her own as Linda, however her role as the grieving widow trying to keep a house over her kids’ heads comes off a little cliché. However, Davis, Debicki, and Rodriguez all have great chemistry and make for a formidable triumvirate. I would love to see these three come together again for another film.
Henry’s Jamal makes for a dynamic bad guy. While ostensibly a gangster he nonetheless wants to become a politician as he sees even more opportunities for kickbacks and profits. Yet he also cares about his community and is tired of his people not having a voice. Farrell’s Mulligan is the one who stands in his way. Farrell is great as the sleazy politician Mulligan who has connections to Neeson’s Harry. His by-play with his father Tom (played to perfection by Robert Duvall) makes for some scene chewing action. Daniel Kaluuya stands head and shoulders above any of those three. His brutal portrayal of Jatemme, Jamal’s brother and enforcer is nothing short of a revelation and about as far removed from his character in Get Out as you can get.
It’s too bad that Widows isn’t as successful at the box office as I hoped it would be. I feel like the producers were setting this up to be a fourth quarter Oscar contender when it would have done well as a bit of counter programming in the summer. Either way, Steve McQueen’s latest is a true gem not to be missed.
My rating System:
0-1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
4 Sub Par
8 Very Good
10 A Must See
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