Review: Widows

Steve McQueen’s highly anticipated follow-up to 2013’s 12 Years A Slave is the unconventional heist film, Widows. Three widows are forded to pull off a heist to pay back $2 million their husband’s died trying to steal.

Veronica (Viola Davis) is the widow of Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson), a thief in Chicago. After Harry literally burns to death during a heist, Vernoica finds his journal that details his past jobs and includes the plans for a future job. Crime boss Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) threatens Veronica’s life over the $2 million her late husband stole because he needs it for his campaign. With her back up against the wall, Veronica recruits the other two widows (played by Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki) to pull off the heist.

There’s also a side story involving alderman incumbent Jake Mulligan (Colin Farrell) running against Jamal. And there’s Jamal’s brother, played by Daniel Kaluuya, the enforcer that does all the dirty work for the Mannings as they attempt to get their money back.

Widows is an unconventional heist movie in a lot of ways. 1) These women don’t know each other and don’t really get along. 3) They have no idea what they’re doing. 2) The heist is easy enough to believe they could pull it off. It’s a grounded heist movie that feels real enough to be true.

Viola Davis is fantastic as the unlikable leader of the group. Davis does an incredible job showing Veronica as someone mourning while also having to find the strength to do something she’s never done before. Not to mention she’s dressed great in every scene and carries her dog around like Mugatu. Don’t worry; Davis does do an ugly cry in this movie to keep her streak going.

Brian Tyree Henry continues to be a shining star. He’s believable as a drug dealer trying to legitimize his money while still having one foot in the crime world. The monologue Jamal delivers to Veronica when he ask for his money back is why Brian Tyree Henry is such a talent. It’s a simple scene where he allows his character’s anger and frustration come out it – he doesn’t explode but you can see that explosion bubbling underneath the surface. That scene shows exactly who the Manning brothers are.

The stand out performance comes courtesy of Daniel Kaluuya. His character is a murderer who enjoys self improvement as much as he does killing. One scene he’s burning a hole through someone with an uncomfortable stare, the next scene he’s learning Spanish on tape. Get you a murderer that can do both! One glimpse at Kaluuya’s filmography and you can see he picks really good characters to play. Widows will soon be added to the list.

Steven McQueen has his magical fingerprints all over this film. The standout scene is the entire sequence from the car, to the heist, and back to the car.  One of the better moments is a drive through Chicago where the audience sees the neighborhood change as Jake Mulligan rides through his poor district on the way back to his house. The changing scenery is juxtaposed with the racially charged conversation happening in the car. It’s brilliantly done.

Widows is one of the best heist films in years. Steve McQueen is a visionary and one of the best directors in Hollywood. Viola and her supporting cast are incredible. The heist planning and the plot twists help keep the story entertaining. All the moving pieces come together for an explosive ending that will remind audiences how fun heist films can be.

Grade: A-