This has a been a good year for classy versions of old genre types. We got what could be argued were arthouse horror films in the form of Suspiria and Hereditary, and now we have an arthouse heist movie from director Steve McQueen in the form of Widows, a remake of a 1983 TV British TV mini-series.
But being arthouse doesn’t necessarily make it good.
Fortunately, it is good.
Working off a script co-written by Gillian Flynn, McQueen put together a hell of a movie with a damn impressive cast. There might be too much for one movie, truth be told–Jacki Weaver only has one scene that asks her to do much of anything–but what is here really works as a slow grind.
Set in Chicago, we open with the deaths of four men, a gang of thieves led by Watson favorite Liam Neeson. As it was, their last job was to steal some money from a ganglord (Brian Tyree Henry) looking to go legit as an Alderman by unseating the son (Colin Farrell) of a long line of politicians whose father (Robert Duvall) was forced out due to health reasons. Henry’s Jamal Manning doesn’t take too kindly to this and essentially threatens Neeson’s grieving widow Veronica (Viola Davis): she has a month to return the money, and she doesn’t actually have any. Her only allies are the widows of two of her late husband’s own associates (Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki) plus a single mother hairdresser (Cynthia Erivo). None of these women really know each other, and Veronica’s only hope is the four of them can pull off the plans her husband left behind.
Now, many heist movies would focus largely on the actual crime, but Widows is more interested in other things. Much of the runtime is devoted to the characters and their backstories, showing a deep understanding for who these people are why they do what they do. And though there are no slouches in the acting department, special notice should go out to Davis as a woman masking grief with hard apathy, Daniel Kaluuya as Brian Tyree Henry’s dangerous brother, and particularly Debicki as an abused woman who slowly gains confidence in herself. In a movie where most if not all of the decisions is based entirely on character, Debicki’s Alice is a complete stand-out.
Likewise, the movie does tie into the current political environment in a manner that is highly appropriate for a movie that prominently features an election subplot.
While far from perfect, this was still a good flick, more than the popcorn movie this sort of story usually is. Check it out if you can. 9 out of 10 car arguments that demonstrate income inequality in subtle ways.