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Movie Review: 'Widows' Vaults to Top of Female Heist Film Genre

by Todd A. Smith

 

Michelle Rodriguez, Viola Davis and Elizabeth Debicki (L-R) star in “Widows” (Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox).

 

 

 

No One Can Do it Better 

 


Dallas rapper The D.O.C. dropped his debut album “No One Can Do it Better” in 1989.


Almost 30 years later, the film “Widows” can make the same bold and declarative claim.


Sure, “Ocean’s 8” did it.


Before that, “Set it Off” did it as well.


But no female heist film has done it quite as good as “Widows,” which produces enough jaw-dropping, unexpected and suspenseful moments to make up for the redundancy often seen in Hollywood thrillers.


In “Widows,” directed by Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”), Veronica (Academy Award winner, Viola Davis) has a charmed life.


Veronica lives a life of luxury.


She worked for a schoolteacher’s union, but her real life occupation is that of a pampered princess thanks to her affluent husband, Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson).


The problem with Harry’s affluence is that he earns his wealth by appropriating the wealth of others and padding his bank accounts with illegally acquired funds.


Stealing from squares and lames might not produce harsh consequences and repercussions. 


But stealing from gangsters is like voluntarily allowing someone to steal your life because that is a definite death sentence.


In “Widows,” like “Set it Off,” the team of robbers has four members.


Harry’s team of thieves includes Florek (Jon Bernthal), Carlos (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Jimmy Nunn (Coburn Goss).


While past robberies have yielded enormous success, rumor has it that some of Harry’s soldiers think that he has gotten a little sloppy with the heists.


When the crew decides to rob the Manning brothers, Jamal (Bryan Tyree Henry, “Hotel Artemis”) and Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”), they finally bite off more than they can chew.


Robbing the Manning brothers and getting away with it is nearly impossible.


No one can rob the biggest gangsters in Chicago and get away with it.


Gangsters have to make examples out of their enemies or their reputation will get tarnished forever, and the streets will begin treating them like doormats.


Furthermore, any thief knows that it is only a matter of time before the law catches up with them.


Somehow the police know the crew’s whereabouts after the Manning robbery.


When the bandits ditch their robbery vehicle for another vehicle to avoid capture, they are met with relentless gunfire from the Chicago Police Department.


The gunfire becomes so severe that the group’s getaway vehicle explodes into a ball of fire, killing all four motorists.


Police officers kill the four suspected robbers ruthlessly with no negotiations whatsoever in an extremely violent and one-sided shoot out.


While the four widows should only have to deal with the grief of burying their husbands, their current predicament becomes even more strenuous.


Some of them used their husband’s money to run their own legitimate businesses.


One widow has a newborn baby that she now has to raise on her own.


Another widow lives a life of luxury but actually owns nothing because everything is in her late husband’s name.


And one widow is so desperate for cash after the death of her late husband that she considers working the streets to make ends meet.


Unfortunately, the hassle of making ends meet pales in comparison to the threat posed by the Manning brothers.


Jamal and Jatemme want their money back in two weeks’ time.


How much do the widows owe the Manning brothers?


A cool $2 million!


Jamal pays Veronica a visit to discuss the particulars for their reimbursement.


The money is very important to the brothers because Jamal desperately wants off of the streets.


He wants to use that money to transition from the streets to politics, where he will obtain real power, not the power that only matters in the streets.


Jamal is running for alderman of the 18th ward of Chicago against the political elite of the “Windy City.”


Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”) is following in his father Tom’s (Robert Duvall, “Jack Reacher”) footsteps by running for alderman, with hopes of one day becoming the mayor of the nation’s third largest city.


However, Jack does not like his father’s way of conducting business and wants to rid himself of the pressures of politics, while also ridding himself of real opposition for alderman.


Jack’s desires versus Tom’s old school way of conducting political affairs leads to an explosive climax in “Widows.”


The thriller “Widows” consists of layered characters not often seen in suspense film.


Each widow has a tragic backstory that is heart wrenching and painful.


Each husband has deceptive secrets that are revealed throughout the movie, which will shock the socks off of moviegoers.


And each actor delivers an emotional and superb performance as to be expected from box office giants and Academy Award winners.


“Widows” also shows that McQueen is not a one trick pony.


Sure, he gave moviegoers the important and historical story of Solomon Northup in “12 Years a Slave.”


However, he totally flips the script by directing “Widows.”


Furthermore, the writing in “Widows” is extremely startling, which should be expected considering Gillian Flynn, the screenwriter of the equally astonishing “Gone Girl” wrote the screenplay.


Although the movie is extremely suspenseful, “Widows” also has its comedic moments thanks to actress Elizabeth Debicki.


In addition, “Widows” features the young Cynthia Erivo (“Bad Times at the El Royale”) who is starting to show that she might be the next Davis, with a limitless range as an actress.

 

However, the ladies are not the only people that shine in “Widows.”

 

Kaluuya is so heartless as a gangster in “Widows” that it is hard to imagine that he is the same actor who played the innocent boyfriend in “Get Out.”

 

His range will remind some of Larenz Tate in the 1990s.

 

Tate’s acting talent was so diverse that moviegoers were scared of him as O-Dog in “Menace II Society,” but a few years later were inspired to write poetry because of his performance as Darius in “Love Jones.”

 

Kaluuya has that same type of diverse acting skills.

 

Unfortunately, “Widows” drags a bit as the ladies formulate a plan and develop the skills necessary to come up with the $2 million owed to the Manning brothers.

 

Despite the initial lull in “Widows,” the movie is still explosive, literally.

 

And as far as female heist films; no one has done it better than “Widows” thus far.



REGAL RATINGS

FOUR CROWNS=EXCELLENT

THREE CROWNS=GOOD

TWO CROWNS=AVERAGE

ONE CROWN=POOR


This article was published on Friday 16 November, 2018.
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