I’ve been a fan of Steve Mc Queen’s movies since his debut feature film ‘Hunger’, a haunting vision of Irish republican hunger striker Bobby Sands. His movies are quietly powerful with assured, confident direction and emotional performances from his central leads.
With his latest movie ‘Widows’ we are drawn into the seedy world of Robbers and a political landscape that embraces this lifestyle secretly while openly admonishing it. We open onto a botched robbery where Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) a career criminal with over thirty successful years of armed robbery under his belt seemingly makes a mistake in the planning and all of the robbers are executed at the hands of a zealous swat team who decimate the group in a hail of bullets.
With a debt owed to a nefarious criminal Jamal Mannings (Brian Tyree Henry) - who also happens to be running against Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) for alderman of the 19th ward, four ‘Widows’ must conspire to forge a future on their own terms and take on a heist that will free themselves from debt and perhaps a new life free from crime.
Taken as a remake of sorts to the 1983 series by Lynda La Plant, there is a lot of story strands that have to be hit in a two hour movie. You would think that this would keep the story interesting and fresh but in reality I felt it dragged at times and we lost the central premise of four women attempting to carry off a robbery with no experience. The other scenes involving political machinations felt forced even though there are some great turns by Colin Farrell and his brow beating, overbearing father played by Robert Duval. Daniel Kaluuya’s performance felt a little off neither over the top evil or clever… just well a little generic. The same could be said for Liam Neeson’s character Harry Rawlings - we never really get to know any of them. They are stock one dimensional characters. In truth there is just too many characters to juggle and have any of them feel grounded.
The subplot of Viola Davis losing her son through a police shooting lost some of its power as it wasn’t really at the centre of the movie. It is the motivator for the plot of the movie which for obvious spoiler reasons I wont say anything more suffice to say that I felt it needed to be given more weight and not have it be a precursor to a ‘twist’ that didn’t necessarily work effectively enough.
In truth the plot by screenwriter Gillian Flynn felt muddled with too many characters vying for screen time that they lost their impact. The central premise for the movie involving the four women was less impactful and relegated to snippets where you lost their character. Truly the only real character was Veronica played by Viola Davis. Trying to touch on so many themes all at once made for a disjointed viewing. We have sleazy politics, sex work, Racism, loss, remorse, revenge, regret and hope all intertwined so that very little hits home and you lose a lot of the power in those themes even though they are very relevant in today’s society.
This is not to say the movie is bad its not. It has very assured direction and the performances are all very good. I felt perhaps that one less subplot would have made for a better viewing experience and given the central premise more weight.